Impact reporting - dream on

Impact reporting - dream on

Impact reporting - dream on

Finance | Rui Domingues | 30 May 2012

Rui Domingues looks forward to the day when agreed standards will guide impact reporting.

Finance professionals have a reputation for being poor communicators. There is real skill involved in getting technical messages across to others, and two documents have recently been issued which both aim, in different ways, to help us achieve this.

Firstly, as part of the Charities Act 2006 review, the Cabinet Office published a call for evidence on the reporting framework for charities. The scope of this aspect of the overall review seems to concentrate mostly on whether reporting thresholds need to be changed, with little emphasis on the ‘softer’ aspects of reporting that is required in the Trustees’ Annual Report.

The call for evidence does mention impact reporting but, in the absence of any sector-wide consistency in this area, there is a danger that the Cabinet Office’s review may fail to properly cover necessary changes to impact reporting, even though this is an important area in need of development and clarification.

Secondly, New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), and various others, have published the Principles of Good Impact Reporting. This document sets out the key steps that a charity needs to take to develop a robust impact reporting system.


Recently, and independently of this guide, Friends of the Elderly worked with Pro Bono Economics (an organisation that matches volunteer economists with charities) on establishing the impact of our home-support services. This has been a very useful experience and proved to me the value of engaging with economics professionals to help demonstrate impact, as they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to construct a robust impact assessment. But the work was reactive, responding to a request from the public sector for this information.

If I close my eyes and dream of an ideal situation, the sector would create a coherent set of standards – similar in nature to the accounting standards we’re all familiar with – that would guide charity impact reporting, all set within a proportionate regulatory framework. Perhaps this development would be guided by a new breed of economists specialising in the charity sector, and maybe one day we will all be reading Charity Economics, or going to meetings of the Charity Economists Group.

But back to my two documents. In their own way, each is useful. The NPC document has a focus on impact and outcomes; the thrust of the Cabinet Office’s document appears to be on inputs and outputs. But can they both be right?

The answer is probably that both documents are right – but not exclusively. A donor would want to make sure that the resources they gave – whether time or money – would both make a difference (impact), and be used wisely (inputs/outputs).

Value for money

Taken together, the two documents remind me of the classic ‘value-for-money’ framework (VFM), which draws both the impact and the input/output aspects together. Having previously maligned the VFM concept (while struggling through laborious public sector tender submissions), I am faced with the unpleasant reality that perhaps I was wrong, and there is something in it after all.

So, what does all this mean for me, as a finance leader in my organisation? Until impact reporting is covered more seriously by a regulatory or standardsbased framework, it will be hard to justify dedicating resources to working up meaningful, consistent impact information.

I am not in favour of increasing our regulatory burden, but we should be proving our impact; showing how we make a difference.

With the scarcity of resources we all face, I will have to focus on the input and output side of things. But this won’t stop me wanting to do my bit in helping to show how we deliver impact at Friends of the Elderly.

Perhaps I need to look at VFM again. Perhaps there is space for a version of this model, tailored to the charity sector, around which finance professionals could design reporting structures. Because, if adopted properly, this framework could help reveal the impact we make and why we can be trusted with donors’ valuable resources.

Rui Domingues is finance director at Friends of the Elderly 



[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Rui Domingues

Rui Domingues is fianance director at Friends of the Elderly. 

Social Charity Spy: Charities and #BlackFriday

27 Nov 2015

This week Spy looks at how charities have engaged with #BlackFriday and how Plan UK worked with a dating...

Charity Technology Conference roundup: less about technology, more about people

26 Nov 2015

Kirsty Weakley rounds up the learning from the Charity Technology Conference, and finds it was less about...

Why charities need to harness the power of their data

25 Nov 2015

A session at last week’s Charity Technology Conference about why Macmillan embraced analytics reminded...

The problems with the debate on equal pay in the charity sector

25 Nov 2015

We’re using the wrong numbers to measure pay inequality in the charity sector, and drawing the wrong...

The Kids Company affair shows evidence still doesn’t drive funding decisions – but it should

24 Nov 2015

We still have a long way to go in ensuring that good quality evidence is used to guide decision-making...

How to hold a board meeting that doesn’t waste your trustees’ time

18 Nov 2015

If you want to run a successful board meeting, start with a successful agenda, says Denise Fellows of...