Charity Support, Advice, Impact Measurement, Philanthropy Impact – NPC

Yes they can! Impact measurement in small charities

By Sarah Handley 15 June 2015

It’s small charities week, which always makes me reflect on my time years ago as the only employee of a tiny charity. It meant doing a bit of everything, which was a great experience—but I have to admit, I didn’t really get around to measuring outcomes and impact.

This is not uncommon. 46% of respondents to FSI’s Small Charity Sector Skills Survey released last week said they need up-skilling in impact reporting. This chimes with NPC’s previous research which found that nearly half of charities with income under £100,000 do not do any impact measurement at all.

The challenge is often related to funding. Last week’s survey reports lack of funding as the top reason for perceived skill gaps in small charities and again our research supports this, with 79% of charities citing this as a barrier to impact measurement. Charities also say that reporting demands from some (by no means all) funders are excessive and unsuitable.

Luckily there are organisations out there proving hands-down that you can do impact measurement whatever size you are. Spire Hub—who we’ve worked with through the Young Foundation and who aim to improve GCSE grades and aspirations for bright disadvantaged young people—have just two employees, yet they are doing a much better job measuring their impact than I did when I worked in a small charity. They have a decent theory of change, some good questionnaires, and are accessing comparison group attainment data.  What is even more impressive is that they have used their evaluation data to tweak their activities to make them even better.

According to the FSI survey, what small charities have in bucket loads is good team working and leadership. These are the foundations of building a measurement framework, as our four pillar approach outlines. Spire Hub agree, saying that the commitment and engagement of their board has been invaluable in helping them on their impact journey.

Furthermore, charities who address a need for impact measurement by proactively opening up conversations are likely to impress funders. Proposing sensible ideas on good impact measurement show you take it seriously, and that you are doing it for the right reasons. You might even be able to get some funding for it.

Small charities have a golden opportunity to implement impact measurement. Chances are, they lack some of the bureaucracy and complexities of larger charities. This freedom, coupled with a good leader and an effective team, means they’re are halfway there. So, small charities, start now—it will save you a lot of time in the long run.