Combined, NHS charities give away £1 million every single day to support our NHS—improving the experience of patients, staff and hospital communities in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Until now, most of the 250 or so NHS charities didn’t have the opportunity to measure the impact of these grants.

With the help of NPC and Inspiring Impact, ten NHS charities joined forces to develop a shared measurement pilot. Shared measurement is when a sector or a group of similar organisations come together to understand their shared outcomes and agree a uniform way to find out if they are achieving these.

We did this by creating a shared theory of change, co-creating tools and sharing the results. The report Learning together as a sector shares our key lessons and findings from the data.

We found three shared measurement benefits which we think should apply to other charities and funders.

1. Cutting down on duplication

It’s a no-brainer that pooling ideas from ten charities to create one shared approach, with the same survey questions and grants data format, uses up less time and effort than it would take to develop ten unique versions.

That is not to say the pilot was easy. It took effort to coordinate; partners spent time fitting information into the shared format; and for some, this was their first-time collecting data. But through this process, charities that often work in isolation came together and it helped those that were new to evaluation to ‘dip their toes’ into measuring impact.

2. Comparing against peers

Benchmarking against the cohort average is the most rewarding part of shared measurement—seeing how we stand in relation to others. Without a point of reference for comparison, anyone can look at a statistic and think ‘so what?’.

The report illustrates the benefit of this. For example, 96% of patients using activities funded by Imperial Health Charity were likely to recommend the hospital due to their experience compared to the cohort average of 72%. There may be several explanations for this difference, but shared measurement helps to highlight this finding as an area to investigate and to share the learning.

Although the cohort differed in size and geography, our shared focus made us similar enough to form a comparable group. Since NHS charities are place-based and do not fundraise from the same sources, we were relaxed about sharing our data. Others working with competitors might feel more sensitive. But with a larger cohort, anonymous benchmarking would be possible.

3. Building an evidence base

The NHS is facing challenges and needs innovative models, the kind pioneered by charities, if it is to thrive. NHS charities also require a body of evidence to commission the most effective work. Shared measurement allows charities to gather comparable data on what works within its group and then ‘steal’ the best ideas to support their own NHS trust.

Working together makes cross-learning much more likely. It doesn’t end with just a statistic, instead it prompts further questions that get us thinking about how to improve such as:

  • Why did this activity improve well-being more than others?
  • What is this charity doing different to get positive results?
  • Which other charity can we speak to about implementing staff training grants?

The pilot is just the start—it illustrates what is possible—the more NHS charities involved, the more useful the data. We will look at how to make this easier and how to help charities use the insights to make grant-making decisions, report to trustees and to boost fundraising efforts. We think more funders should also think about how they can work together.

NPC will be running a session on shared measurement at its annual conference NPC Ignites 2019.

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