Impact Reporting For Charities - An Example Template To Use To Measure, Evaluate And Report Impact

A practical step-by-step guide to impact reporting for charities. The real value in having an impact report, what impact is, measurement, evaluation, what to include, how to make impact reports really effective and how to create and publish a great charity impact report. Not least for your funders. This resource provides a simple example template that anyone can use.

Impact Reporting For Charities

This simple guide covers the real value in charity impact reporting, what impact is, its measurement and evaluation, what to include, how to make your impact reporting really effective and how to create and publish a great charity impact report.   Not least for your funders.  It also includes Charity Commission PB3 annual report impact reporting requirements. 

Why Evaluate And Report Your Charity Impact?

Impact is the difference you make and, with funding really tight, spending a bit of time evaluating what it is you do in delivering impact can help you find ways to achieve even more. And doing so can also help you secure more funding. I chaired a small grant making board for a decade and what my board wanted to do was to make a real difference to people's lives.  All funding bids are about making a difference, but those that demonstrated they were really making a difference were funded and those that didn't weren't.  

You're not required to have a charity impact report, but these are a great opportunity to explain your work and engage your funders, stakeholders and others. I don't think that the breadth and depth and value of the social impact charities have is always fully understood and appreciated.  I've used measuring the impact of a homelessness charity below as an example to show how you can make sure that yours is.  The simple process I've used applies equally well to any other non profit activity and can be used as a template to bring out the full value of your impact in reports and fundraising bids. 

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Impact Evaluation - Outputs, Outcomes And Impact

The impact you have is the difference that your charity makes, but be clear on what that means to you.  These are the definitions used in the Charity Excellence modelling system, but there are others.

  • Outputs - what your charity does (produces).  That might be providing meals for the homeless.  This is not the difference you make, but this data is often easier to collect or readily available, so can be used to show just how much you are achieving. 
  • Outcomes - the difference that makes. 
    • Providing a homeless person with a meal alleviates their hunger, but also their health and just knowing that someone cares can have an even bigger impact of their wellbeing. 
    • If you're services are wider than providing meals, your outcomes might also include getting them off the street and away from harm, accessing other help they need, securing benefits, finding a job or a home. 
    • Your work may well also impact positively on others, such as family and friends and/or the whole community.  
  • Impact - the longer term difference that makes. This can be much harder to quantify, but can be far greater than your outcomes.  For example, it can last a lifetime and helping a homeless person escape the streets may have a long term impact in reducing the burden/cost on statutory services, such as schools, the NHS, social services and criminal justice.  You can't directly measure this, but here are some ways to help make the case:
    • There may well be statistics/research on the long term impact of homelessness on society and/or of getting people off the streets. I usually use Mr Google. 
    • Case studies/stories are not only very good for engaging people, but can a also be used to show how you help people to transform their lives. 

IMPACT REPORTING FOR CHARITIES - TEMPLATE AND EXAMPLE

You can use this temaplte and example to create your charity impact report. 

Charity Impact Reporting 1 - Purpose

If you're thinking of reporting your impact, first you need to be clear on who your audience will be and the pupose(s) of your impact report.  This will enable you to shape the content, style and structure to make it as effective as possible. Here are some ideas:

  • Engaging your community and holding your charity accountable to them.
  • Engaging your funders and showing them that you are delivering on their expectations.
  • As a tool to engage potential future funders. 

Charity Impact Reporting 2 - When To Create Yours

You can create your charity imapct report at any time, but I think the best time to do so is when you've finished your annual report and return.  You've done most of the hard work in assessing everything you've achieved over the last year and have the financial and other numbers you'll need.  You can then also present it as part of your annual meeting and/or use its content to make a great presentation. 

Charity Impact Reporting 3 - What To Include

There's no correct format or length, so think about what your audience will want to know and use the language, images, graphs, figures, whatever that will engage them.  Here are some ideas on what you might include:

  • The Unmet Need.  Feeding homeless people could never be anything other than a good thing, but explaining the unmet need will help to make clear the urgency and importance of your work.  Something that's really important in fundraising.  
    • This may be a major issue for society, have recently become much worse and/or likely to become much worse and existing services may not be able to respond. 
    • The issue may be multidimensional, making it worse and/or more urgent.  For example, poverty isn't just about a lack of money, it impacts health and wellbeing, education and damages communities.  
  • Vision & Mission.  You don't need to go all 'business speak', but what you do isn't about the numbers of meals you produce or details about your projects, but about the difference you make. Engage your audience by explaining what that is and the change you wish to make. 
  • What You've Achieved.  What you've done over the last year and the impact this has made.  Help people to understand what it is you do that makes a difference.
  • The Future.  What you plan to do in the coming year.  Engage and take your audience with you, by showing how you will continue and build on your fantastic work, not least potential funders.   

Don't forget to recognise and celebrate the work of your staff/volunteers and suppporters who have made this possible.  

Charity Impact Reporting 4 - How To Do It

You have the data in your annual statutory report/return and a structure for your impact report, but you need to make it credible and bring it to life.  Here are some ideas:

Facts And Data. 

  • National Data.  That may be research reports, Government data etc, but these can often be lengthy and complex. The very large charities often do this really well and have the key information available in a simple, clear way on their websites.  The BBC is another good source.  If you want to cut and paste this, get permission (copyright). If you just want to use the facts, recognise them as the source. it gives credit to those who did the work and using data from a major organisation is more credible. 
  • Local Area Data. If you feel up to it, the Office Of National Statistics may have regional/local area data.  However, an easier source is that local Government often publishes data about the local community and I usually find this quicker and easier. 
  • Charity Data. For example, the number of meals provided, feedback data and volunteers. Charity's often have very small budgets and the dry financial numbers may suggest that means limited impact, but volunteers massively amplify this.  One way to bring that out is to track/estimate volunteer hours and simply cost these using the national minimum wage.  Just 10 volunteers giving you only an hour a week at minimum wage rates is valued at £4.6k.  

Bringing You Impact To Life.  Commercial companies primarily exist to make a profit and that's easily measurable in the accounts.  However, charity impact tends to be much broader and a lot less easily measurable.  Your annual report and accounts don't tell the whole story or tell it in an engaging way.   Bring your work to life using imagery, case studies, stories and quotes. Use these to reinforce and amplify your key messages and make sure you have appropriate consent to use these. 

Keep It Focussed.  Don't lose your readers attention, or bury your key messages in the detail.  Key financial and other data can be made more engaging by showing this in simple graphs or infographics.  If you do need/want to include detail, consider putting this in an annex at the end. And, going back to the purposes of your report, make sure that these messages come through clearly.  

Charity Impact Reporting 5 - Producing And Communicating Your Report

Creating Your Impact Report.  If you can afford it, you can hand this over to a designer to create your impact report for you.  You're clear on what you're seeking to achieve and you've done a lot of the work, so it should cost less.  If money's tight, you might engage a freelancer, or even do it yourself.  Some charities like to create hard copy reports, but personally I prefer to use digital pdfs.  These cost nothing to produce (I'm Scottish) and can quickly and easily be distributed to large numbers of people.  

Communicating.  There's no point having an impact report if nobody reads it, so the final step is critical.  From your purposes, you know who your audience is, so you now just need to get it to them.  Here are some ideas:

  • Table it at your AGM and/or use the content for a presentation.
  • Table it for trustee and/or staff meetings. 
  • E mail or post copies to your audience.
  • Put it on your website and promote it using your newsletter/social media. 
  • Include it with funding applications. 

FREE CHARITY IMPACT MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION RESOURCES

For a whole range of impact measurement and assessment toolkits, quick guides, impact webinars, networks and volunteers, visit the Resource Hub Impact Page

CHARITY COMISSION PB3 - ANNUAL REPORT IMPACT REPORTING

Charity Commission PB3 (Public Benefit Reporting) is the legal requirement for registered charities to report in their trustees’ annual report on how they have carried out their charity’s purposes for the public benefit.  There are different requirements for larger and smaller charities, but beyond that, there are no rules on how to do it and no requirement to have an separate impact report. 

Some funders download annual reports as part of their bid assessment. Impact is what funders want and you're going to have to write it anyway, so it’s worth doing well - it all helps.

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