'Buddying' can help smaller charities assess impact, says a report by Clore fellow Nicola Sansom

Working with external advisers could help smaller charities, especially in the young homeless sector, a new report says

Nicola Samson
Nicola Samson

Smaller charities need more creative and freely adaptable methods of impact measurement and should seek external advice to provide alternative viewpoints on the issue, a new report has concluded.

The report, How can you measure magic? was written by Nicola Sansom, a Clore Social Leadership Programme fellow and chief executive of the Ugandan street charity Salve International. It says smaller organisations, particularly those working with homeless young people, require ongoing funding to assess impact, and may need to accept limitations in terms of how much they can measure.

Among the report’s recommendations is the proposal that the sector should promote ‘buddying’ – using people from outside the organisation to provide alternative viewpoints and ideas on how impact can be measured.

Organisations also need to question their priorities in terms of day-to-day programme work versus impact assessment, the report says.

It suggests that a financial crisis may be a good trigger for the measuring of impact and ensuring an organisation’s focus is on what works best.

Clarity, simplicity, time to conduct analysis, as well as safeguarding and transparency are also highlighted by the report as important issues for small charities wanting to measure their impact.  

The report based its findings on two elements. Interviews were conducted with leaders and experts from 12 organisations in the global homeless young people sector, and there were also three in-depth case studies, carried out with Salve International, the Young People’s Support Foundation in Manchester, and Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action in Delhi, India, from which an impact toolkit has been developed.

Among the challenges faced by smaller organisations when measuring impact, highlighted by the interviews, are shortage of staff time, poor understanding of the rationale behind assessment tools and insufficient training or money to use new technology.

The author says: "It feels like there is a lot of energy within the homeless young people organisational sector to keep developing the skills and methodologies to try to better understand and measure their impact, which I hope continues to flourish and evolve.

"To support this it would be wonderful to see more opportunities, through longer-term funder investment and organisational buddying, that promote the sharing and co-development of tools and methodologies together."

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