Charities must measure their work in four key areas in order to assess the effectiveness of their activities, according to a new publication from the think tank NPC.
The paper, called Building Your Measurement Framework: NPC’s Four Pillar Approach and published today, has been written to provide a practical approach to impact measurement. It says the activity need not be overly complicated if charities consider four key priorities, which are:
- Drawing up a "theory of change" that sets out what charities want to achieve and how they might approach the challenge
- Choosing what "impacts" they want to measure because they are unlikely to have the resources to measure all of them
- Selecting the level of evidence needed to measure the impacts
- Deciding which sources and tools are most suited to carrying out the measurements.
The paper says there are no universal measures of a charity’s impact that mirror statistics in the private sector, such as share price or profit margin.
"Despite many well-intentioned efforts, no one has developed measures of impact that suit all charities – even the term ‘impact’ is subject to different interpretations," it says. "Add to this the challenge of setting aside precious resources and other contextual and cultural factors – what is already known about what works and what does not, internal skills and experience, the fickle nature of funder requirements and the size of the window to collect data from beneficiaries, and so on – and it is little wonder that some charities struggle to put impact measurement into practice."
Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, said: "For a long time, charities could probably get away with talking only about how much good they were doing. But increasingly that isn’t good enough, and it certainly does nothing to help charities improve their work.
"Up until now charities might have said it was all too complex. But NPC’s new guide to measuring your impact means that this excuse can be consigned to the dustbin of charity history."