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The six types of impact data you should be capturing
The 6 types of impact data you need to provide evidence for funders and internal stakeholders.
If your staff are feeling pulled in multiple directions collecting endless types of data for multiple funders you need to get smart with your monitoring and evaluation.
I remember the long nights chained to my desk only too well – the dreaded funder return, due at the end of the month, with an annual report to be drafted and board papers to write. When I was a charity CEO it is what frequently kept me working until 11pm.
Here’s what I wish I knew then about how to capture, store and process impact data in an efficient way to inform funders, inspire supporters and improve services.
Get your data working hard for you and your teams!
Make sure that your systems are working hard for your teams by mapping the data that various audiences need and find ways to capture and analyse the data once for multiple audiences.
Here are the six types of data you should be capturing to get smart with your monitoring and evaluation and achieving a sustained impact:
1. User data
To ensure your services are reaching the right people it is important to find out the background or characteristics of your beneficiaries. Depending on who you are targeting services to this could include their gender, age, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, postcode, etc.
You could capture this through a registration form when people start using your service or soon after.
2. Outputs data
Outputs are the numbers relating to the delivery of your project or service. This could include:
- The number of people being supported
- How long people use your service for
- The number of activities being delivered
- The number of materials distributed
Attendance registers will help you to capture information on user engagement with your service.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of what activities were delivered and when, as well as what went well and what could have been done differently. This will be helpful when developing grant and annual reports, without having to remember what happened a year ago.
3. Outcomes data
Outcomes are the changes experienced by beneficiaries. Depending on the length of your service, you may want to measure both short-term outcomes and long-term outcomes.
Outcomes can also be broken down into:
- Soft outcomes, which are usually subjective, such as perceived improvements in wellbeing, self-esteem and confidence.
- Hard outcomes, which are usually objective, and could include educational attainment, gaining a job or finding settled accommodation.
Questionnaires and observation records are good ways to measure outcomes. Other creative methods can be useful too.
Depending on the length of your project, you should aim to capture data at two or more intervals – for example before, during and after people use your service – to measure what changes over time.
A theory of change can help you to identify the best time to measure outcomes.
One of the main ways of improving your services is to capture and analyse the feedback given by beneficiaries and other people who may be impacted.
This could be through questionnaires, qualitative research (such as interviews or focus groups) and simply talking to people and asking for their feedback on a regular basis.
5. Stories and case studies
Data matters, but stories are key to inspiring people.
Your team should be developing a bank of stories and regularly sharing these amongst staff, trustees and volunteers. The best fundraisers find and connect with stories themselves, rather than relying on second-hand accounts.
Here’s Lucy Gower’s tips on storytelling.
Stories can be captured through photographs, video (even captured on your camera phone) and interviews with staff or beneficiaries.
6. Impact data
If your project or service aims to make a difference in the long-term or on a wider scale, you can capture impact data. However, this is the hardest type of data to collect and requires a rigorous methodology, usually involving a comparison group.
If you are not aiming to achieve a long-term impact on individuals or a wider impact on organisations, community or society, it may be better to focus your resources on capturing and analysing the five types of data listed above.
Putting all of this information together:
Develop a table or spreadsheet noting all of the stakeholders and the type of impact data they might need and when. This could include commissioners, trusts & foundations, major donors, corporate partners, individual givers, CEO, trustees and the charity commission.
There are some online tools that can help you to capture, analyse and store all of this information, including impactasaurus, which is free.
We have created a simple infographic to illustrate this, which you can download here.
Understanding who needs what information and when, and developing systems to capture this information effectively, puts you in a good place to collate data for multiple stakeholder groups and reports in an efficient way, meaning you can say goodbye to pulling your hair out over those funder reports.
FOUNDER & LEAD CONSULTANT
Emma has first-hand experience of the thrills and terrors of charity leadership. Dedicated to the non-profit sector for 21 years, Emma has both depth and breadth of experience as a CEO, Consultant, Trustee and Chair, Fundraiser and Grants Assessor.
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