What is Social Impact?

Social impact is a measure of change [good, bad, neutral] in the lives of your target audience. You can think of social impact as the short, medium, or long-term ripple effects of any project or initiative. Regardless of your entity type, your organization creates a social impact in some regard. By providing a product or service, you make an impact on your audience’s lives resulting in some form of impact on society.

 

Why measure social impact?

There are many reasons for you to measure your impact. While it can seem and feel like a cumbersome undertaking, there are many benefits for your organization in the long run. Organizations that measure and market their impact set themselves apart from the rest.

Here are three reasons to measure your impact:

  1. Understand your value.
    1. When you measure social impact, you can better understand how your organization is impacting people and communities.
    2. This information can help guide future strategy, decision-making, and resource allocation.
  2. Assess the impact of your work.
    1. Impact measurement helps organizations assess if their programs achieve desired outcomes.
    2. Additionally, measuring social impact demonstrates accountability to funders (whether government or private sector).
    3. Most funders expect impact data from grant recipients before making funding decisions.
  3. Share data with stakeholders.
    1. Reinforce your value with irrefutable impact data
    2. Your team deserves to know the impact they create every day.
    3. Galvanize your employees, customers, donors, volunteers, and board members with legitimate impact data. 

How to measure social impact?

There are many ways that you can measure social impact. Before we dive into “the how” let’s discuss a few principles.

  • Start Small & Keep It Simple
    • If you are starting out in gathering impact data, start small! Don’t let your ambition overwhelm your team.
    • Build a clear impact roadmap for your entire team. And always, get their feedback and buy-in!
  • Become A Data-Driven Organization
    • Decide on key metrics specific to your organization
    • Become dedicated to recording impact data.
  • Embrace Reality 
    • Your organization is working hard and accomplishing great things. You’re impacting lives and communities daily.
    • Yet, not all impact data is positive.
    • Instead of becoming discouraged, learn how you can improve your programs, products, and services.
  • Tell the story —
    • Whether you are trying to communicate to your donors, internal team, or the constituents you serve, impact data is how you will inspire them.
    • The overwhelming percentage of stakeholders want to know your impact. Tell them!

 

Theory of Change

Theory of Change is a simple tool to help you create more effective and sustainable impacts. It is a description of how you believe your program, products, and services will achieve their impact goals. In other words, it explains the relationship between your work and the desired impacts on society.

Theory of Change is often represented as a flowchart representing each component:

  • Inputs = things like money or materials needed to carry out your initiative
  • Activities= Day-to-day tasks and projects to execute your programs, products, and services
  • Outputs = Numeric impact goals for your work (For example, the number of people reached)
  • Outcomes = The short, mid, and long-term effects of your initiatives on your target audience.

 

General principles for measuring social impact.

  • Define your problem before you solve it.
    • For example, if you set out to build a classroom in a rural village and then find out that there’s no electricity or access to teachers, it doesn’t help anyone.
    • We recommend that you always start with a Needs Assessment. This ensures you have a better understanding of the community and associated problems.
  • Start Small & Keep It Simple
    • If you are starting out in gathering impact data, start small! Don’t let your ambition overwhelm your team.
    • Build a clear impact roadmap for your entire team. And always, get their feedback and buy-in!
  • Become A Data-Driven Organization
    • Decide on key metrics specific to your organization
    • Become dedicated to recording impact data.
  • Embrace Reality 
    • Your organization is working hard and accomplishing great things. You’re impacting lives and communities daily.
    • Yet, not all impact data is positive.
    • Don’t become discouraged, learn how you can improve your programs, products, and services.
  • Keep learning!
    • As different challenges arise,  adjust accordingly!
    • Don’t lose sight of your goals but stay flexible as to how you will achieve them.

What To Do Next

Don’t get left behind!

One might ask when was the best time to plant a tree? Of course, the answer is, 20 years ago. When is the next best time? Today! The same applies to measuring your impact. Just because you haven’t started yet, doesn’t mean it is too late.

If you have questions or need help with measuring your impact, schedule a free consultation today! The Social Impact Solutions Team is here for you!

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