Man with megaphoneImpact measurement has come a long way in the last ten years. It’s no longer just the niche interest of organisations like NPC; it’s now a key part of many charities’ everyday operations. Today, impact measurement is the focus of major conferences, popular tools and guides, and even entire organisations like the Social Impact Analysts Association. Some charities even have members of staff dedicated to monitoring impact.

But although we hear a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the view that charities are serious about measuring the difference their work makes, we don’t have the data to back this up. We don’t know how many charities in theUKare actually measuring their impact, what they are measuring, and how they are doing it.

This is why we’re very excited to be working with NCVO, ACEVO, CES and TSRC to carry out a major research project to dig deeper into questions around how charities are measuring the difference they make. Over the next few months, we will be working with Ipsos Mori to conduct a representative survey spanning the wholeUK charity sector—looking at charities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and building on research carried out in 2007 and 2008 by CES. We want to build up a detailed picture of what charities think about impact measurement, how they approach it, and what kind of results they get.

We want to know if charities are collecting output data or outcomes; how sophisticated their level of evidence is; whether they are using quantitative research methods, randomised control trials, matched samples or academic literature. But we also want to find out what charities think are the major barriers to measuring impact, so that the sector can start to think about how these can be overcome.

Ultimately, we hope that the information we gather from this survey will help charities to measure better. By finding out what is holding charities back from measuring their impact, the organisations involved in the project can act to help overcome these stumbling blocks. For example, one common complaint we hear is that different funders demand different sets of information on impact, or information presented in a different way—something which might ultimately be changed with work in different subsectors on standardised reporting.

We’ll be publishing our findings in a free report later this year, and we also hope to make the anonymised data from the survey available to those who want to do further analysis. So keep an eye out for an email about the survey from Ipsos Mori, and a follow up phone call to hear your views and experiences.

Your responses will help us create a true picture of the impact measurement landscape in theUK. We hope to use this to help set the agenda on impact measurement over the next few years, and help make it easier for charities to prove the difference they make.

We’re grateful to our funders at the Big Lottery Fund, the City Bridge Trust ,The Northern Rock Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for making this project possible.

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