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Reflecting on NPC’s impact

By Ellen Harries 10 February 2015

It’s fair to say that at NPC we take impact very seriously. From advising funders and charities on how to measure their outcomes, to running Impact Leadership Conferences, and co-chairing the G8’s Impact Measurement Working Group, we’re focused on helping the sector improve its approach to impact.

But what about NPC’s impact?

You’ll be pleased to hear that our impact boffins are thinking hard about this. As a non-delivery organisation, with a mission to transform the charity sector, this brings continual challenge. But we firmly believe in practising what you preach, and so last year we published our (much debated and re-drafted!) theory of change. It was a somewhat fraught process because everyone had an opinion, but it helped us to articulate what changes we want to see and importantly how we intend to achieve them.

We are also using the Measuring Up! tool, produced by Inspiring Impact, and continue to think about the different ways we can improve our impact practice.

As part of this, it is important for us to test our impact and theory of change by sending out surveys to external stakeholders: a client survey to everyone we’ve worked with and an annual survey to our entire mailing list (some 30,000 people). In line with our belief in transparency, we want to share the results of these questionnaires.

We found that our work influences the actions of people we work with: 73% of our clients and partners say they plan to take or have taken action as a result of working with NPC. And we’re even influencing those we haven’t met—only 6% of people we interact with online say that we don’t influence their thinking.

But more than this, we’re interested in the effect these actions will have. Are we helping charities make a bigger impact? Will they improve the lives of beneficiaries?

Happily, and in short, the answer is yes. A whopping 93% of people think the actions they have taken as a result of working with us will make them more effective. Only 2% feel it will make them no more effective; the rest aren’t sure or do not feel the question is relevant to them. This supports an assumption in our theory of change that influencing organisations’ knowledge and skills will lead to actions that will make them more effective.

Another encouraging finding is that for the organisations we work with most closely, 82% agree with our strapline that we are “transforming the charity sector”. Heartening, because we chose these words very deliberately and they clearly set the bar high.

So, what is it that people have done as a result of working with us or reading our resources? A few examples include:

  • an individual making changes to their will and re-selecting charities to give to;
  • an organisation securing nearly £1 million of funding over three years;
  • many charities starting to use theory of change;
  • a considerable number producing impact reports; and
  • a civil servant in the Czech Republic using our work to build an evaluation system for a social innovation project.

The vast majority of comments were positive, but there were a few isolated more challenging ones too.  We were told:

  • we should stick to convening rather than provoking;
  • we need to be careful we don’t lose our critical edge (somewhat in conflict with the comment above!); and
  • we are too London-centric (something that has come up before).

Any organisation worth its salt needs to reflect on feedback and work out how to improve; something our trustees and senior management team will be doing as we set our strategy for the year to come. Because as charities and funders respond to our work, we need to be looking ahead to ensure that we continue to deliver on our promise to transform the charity sector.