Improving impact measurement

NPC is proud that over our first 15 years we have helped persuade the charity sector to embrace impact as a key measure of success. We have worked across the sector to advocate for the importance of understanding impact, and to embed impact research, measurement, evaluation and learning into practice.

Providing practical support

At the heart of our work on impact is our work for charities and funders to help them with understanding and improving their impact. In 2009 we made our first steps providing charities with advice on measuring their results. Today, NPC is a leading provider of consulting on measurement for charities and funders, working with around 40 clients in 2016. To ensure this reaches as many as possible we have invested heavily in codifying and disseminating our knowledge gained from working with organisations of all shapes and sizes on their measurement practice. In Creating your theory of change: NPC’s practical guide and Building your measurement framework: NPC’s four pillar approach, we share the frameworks and approaches that we use for free. Our publications on theory of change have been downloaded nearly 60,000 times, and the Four pillar approach, 11,500. Other reports delve further into good impact measurement practice including: Economic analysis: What is it good for? (2014), Listen and learn: How charities can use qualitative research (2016), Balancing Act: A guide to proportionate evaluation (2016) and Global innovations in measurement and evaluation (2017). We have developed our reach through events, supporting charity professionals to apply best practice through our popular measurement seminars, and through our training. Meanwhile, our leadership on programmes such as Inspiring Impact and the Access Impact Management Programme is core to our mission to help charities and funders engage with their impact.

Developing collective approaches

Work with individual organisations is crucial, but ultimately impact measurement will be better and more efficient using shared approaches. We have worked to develop and advocate for shared measurement approaches, which involves charities working towards similar goals reaching a common understanding of what to measure, and developing the tools to do so. As well as sharing our own work on the topic, we collaborated with Big Society Capital and other partners on a pioneering project to produce outcomes maps covering the whole area of social welfare and the environment. We also pioneered the Data Labs model. We were instrumental in the establishment of the Ministry of Justice’s Justice Data Lab in April 2013, which received the Royal Statistical Society award for ‘Statistical Excellence in Official Statistics’. Since then we have been influencing government to set-up further Data Labs.

It’s great that NPC provides tools to help understand the impact of charities in nuanced and robust ways.

Dan Sutch, Nominet Trust

Increasing incentives and rewards

It is important that those that ultimately fund charities’ work value impact too. Over the years we have worked with varied audiences to make this the case. We’ve encouraged grant funders and philanthropists to consider the impact of charities as a core attribute in their decisions about what to fund, through publications like The little blue book, and more recently What makes a good charity? Commissioners have become increasingly important as the value of contracts to the sector rises. In 2014 we influenced the review of the Social Value Act to help strengthen the framework within which commissioners can take account of social impact and we continue to lobby for it to be used more widely. We have worked hard in the social investment and social impact investing spaces as they have developed to ensure that investors value social returns alongside financial, working with Big Society Capital and other key players to progress this agenda. Between 2013 and 2014 we co-chaired the Impact Measurement Working Group of the Social Impact Investing Taskforce, established by the G8. In 2015 we published our review of the impact created by the KL Felicitas foundation, including a new framework—NPC’s Impact Assurance Classification. We’ve advocated for the importance of communicating impact in retaining and rebuilding public trust of charities, and carried out research into donor attitudes towards charity impact. Our position that the Charity Commission should require charities to provide impact reporting is well established, and using regulation to put impact at the heart of charities’ work is something we will continue to promote and encourage.