While some people think that charity CEOs spend all their time sitting around or lobbying government for dubious causes (in other words, doing little on nice fat salaries), in my experience the reality is somewhat different.
Running a charity is a multi-faceted activity that involves strategy, fundraising, managing staff, encouraging volunteers, interacting with government both local and national, and being the figurehead—all while keeping yourself close enough to the front line to really know what’s going on.
Added to this is the vital need to really understand what you are achieving, so you can explain it to others and, more importantly, improve what you do. And one way or another, this search for improvement ends up encompassing the need to measure your impact.
The measurement world changes fast, which is why our upcoming Annual Conference acts as a place where people can catch up with what’s happening, hear from leading experts and reflect on where to go next. Our plasticine creations—Data Girl and Measurement Boy—give a more rousing overview of the programme in our short film!
And the new trends are exciting indeed.
Data is opening up, allowing us to access information from surveys and government departments that help us target and track better as well as helping us better understand what we are achieving. The pervasive use of social media also allows charities to gain real-time feedback on issues and adapt fast.
But data is no good unless you know what you are trying to achieve. So the whole concept of a Theory of Change—a model of what you do and how it links to the ultimate outcomes you want to secure (kids staying out of care; adults with disabilities getting back into work)—is becoming more and more essential.
Perhaps less noticeable is the drive towards shared measurement. This can sound a bit techie and dull (even to me!), but in truth it is the route to an exciting future for the charitable sector. If we—in particular areas like NEETs or domestic violence, for example—can agree on the outcomes we want and, crucially, the way we measure them, then all sorts of vistas open up. We can compare how we are doing and share the most effective solutions; funders can allocate funding towards successful organisations and interventions; and charities and funders can come together and collaborate based on a shared measurement framework, rather than working in parallel silos and wasting resource relative to what could be achieved.
Pursuing the impact agenda is not something that charities and funders should fear, nor should it feel alien to the basic drive of the voluntary sector to do good. In fact, it is crucial to this endeavour. That’s why we are so pleased to have such an array of talent speaking at our Conference.