Three lessons to help charities increase their impact
24 January 2019 3 minute read
The Impact for Growth Peer Network of the Impact Management Programme (now merged with Inspiring Impact) was set up last July and has grown from 11 to 40 members. What have the grantees learnt from being part of the network and how can it help the wider sector?
Improving impact management is an iterative process
Estimating how long something will take when you’ve not done before is hard. That’s the position many grantees are in when developing theories of change or new impact management systems, and this can make planning difficult. Being flexible in project planning, being prepared to change tack, and leaving room for the unexpected can help.
Both charities and funders should not go into this expecting a quick solution. Many grantees have talked about how the programme made them realise that this is just the start of a much longer journey to increase impact.
Grantees have also found there are many ‘unknown unknowns’ that you can’t plan for until you get going. For example, designing a system is tricky when you don’t know what your outcomes are, and you might not know them until you start collecting data. Most have found its best to accept this, start small and pilot something.
One of the most useful pieces of learning…is the application of an agile, iterative growth plan…meaning our board can maintain absolute oversight and control but also that we can manage the work and learn and refine quickly.
Systems don’t have to be sophisticated
As nice as sophisticated systems and dashboards are, many found that you don’t need them to manage impact well. Grantees are using Excel and free versions of Power Bi to record, manage and learn from their data. It’s crucial to remember that one size does not fit all.
And remember, systems are a lot more than IT, how you collect, organise, manage and store data are all vital.
New systems are one thing; changing staff behaviour is another
Impact management has meant change for busy staff and trustees and often requires a culture change. This is a major undertaking and has been a challenge for most grantees—often in ways they didn’t anticipate.
The greatest challenge will be embedding the changes in our day to day delivery systems and getting the whole team on board
Doing this well will look different in every organisation, but grantees have shared some top tips:
- Bring everyone along for the ride. Staff consultations on the design of systems and processes, and where any concerns about data capture are taken seriously, will engage staff and encourage better data capture.
- Make impact management accessible and communicate why it is important. Talking about impact management at the annual conference, making it a strategic goal, and tying it in with individual objectives, have all helped engage staff.
- Show the positive difference that impact management is having on services. Presenting impact information in an attractive way is vital for engagement and buy-in from stakeholders. What you present to who will depend on information needed and levels of engagement.
We tried to involve everyone in the process, right from the outset…if this project was going to work, we had to take all these people with us.
These highlights just skim the surface of what grantees are learning. You can find more insights, charity advice, and other blogs on the Inspiring Impact website and get updates by following them on Twitter.
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