Making an impact: Impact measurement among charities and social enterprises in the UK

Ten years ago, critics dismissed impact measurement as too difficult, misleading, or simply not important. Today, 75% of charities measure some or all of their work, and nearly three-quarters have invested more in measuring results over the last five years. Making an impact offers the first representative picture of the charity sector’s response to the challenge of impact measurement.

NPC surveyed 1,000 charities with incomes over £10,000 to understand what has changed in charities’ impact measurement practices, the drivers behind measuring impact, and the benefits and challenges that it brings.

The paradox at the centre of our research is that what drives charities to measure their impact does not match with the benefits they reap as a result. The two most important drivers are a change in funding requirements and the prioritisation of impact measurement by the charities’ board or senior management. Only 5% of charities say that wanting to improve services is a primary motivation for increasing their impact measurement efforts; and yet, improved strategy and services, as well as the ability to demonstrate impact, are the main benefits they see. Barriers still exist, especially for smaller charities—most obviously, a lack of funding for impact measurement. But charities also feel that funders’ reporting requirements do not always correspond to their own needs, and that they lack technical expertise to know what and how to measure. 25% of charities still do not measure the impact of their work at all.

Making an Impact identifies steps to be taken by charities, funders and government to improve the practice of impact measurement, fund impact measurement itself, advise charities on how to use the data, advance policy and facilitate shared outcome frameworks.

 Charities told us that the greatest benefit of measuring their impact was to improve their services. That’s incredibly important, because it means that charities can deliver better outcomes in tough times, and ultimately help improve people’s lives even more.

Tris Lumley, report author, NPC

Report authors

Tris Lumley
Eibhlin Ni Ogain
David Pritchard