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We need funders to support their charities’ impact practice

Erica leads NPC’s work on Inspiring Impact, a UK-wide collaborative movement aiming to promote good impact practice across the voluntary and social enterprise sector.

We need more funders to use their influence with their grantees to encourage impact practice

It’s no news that with power comes responsibility. In the charity sector this means that funders—who have money, with which comes influencing power—have the responsibility to support their grantees to achieve the greatest possible impact and to achieve their shared goals.

At Inspiring Impact we want to make it easy for funders to help their grantees with impact practice, and we’ve developed guidance and resources for this. We also know that often face-to-face support can offer more than online tools. Spirit of 2012, for example, runs learning events for its grantees to help them improve their impact measurement and practice. We’re excited that they have recently signed up to be an Inspiring Impact Impact Champion—a commitment to improving their own as well as their networks’ impact practice. Spirit of 2012 recently invited us to one of their learning events. Much of the discussion focused around identifying the right tools for measurement, which is something many organisations struggle with.

Finding the right way to measure impact can be tricky

Getting people to respond to surveys, for example, is hard at the best of times, but when service users are people with learning disabilities or dementia, who struggle with traditional paper- or computer-based surveys, it’s even more difficult. One way to get around these challenges is to carry out face-to-face surveys (rather than online or by phone) so that staff can explain the questions to users. Sometimes pictures can also be used instead of words can make the survey more accessible.

Many tools and measures already exist that funders and their grantees can use

Instead of asking charities to write their own survey questions, funders can recommend ‘validated tools’, which make it easy for funders to compare and analyse the data across grantees and for grantees to learn from each other. Validated tools are questionnaires that have been statistically tested—so we know they measure what they are supposed to—and they produce consistent results when used by different people or with different groups of service users. Typically they have been designed by measurement experts and often include guidelines on data collection and analysis. Someone has invested time, skills and resources to develop, test and pilot them, so charities don’t need to.

They can be an invaluable resource, but remember that validated tools weren’t designed with a single service in mind, so they are not tailored to the specific needs of any particular organisation. If they are adapted to be more relevant they lose their validity, so use them wisely! You can find some examples of validated tools in NPC’s outcome maps.

To support grantees to find the right measurement tools there need to be more open conversations between funders and grantees. Funders need to be willing to ask grantees how they can best support them with their impact practice, as well as share their expertise.

  • If you’re a funder and you’d like to join the Impact Champions network or for more information please contact Shona Curvers.
  • If you are interested in helping your grantees with their impact practice, but you don’t think the Impact Champions network is quite right for you, please email us at inspiringimpact@thinkNPC.org. We’d love to talk to you and understand how we can best support you.

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