A transatlantic coaltion of impact measurement organisations, including the UK think tank NPC, have urged the sector to think responsibly about impact measurement.
In a report, Impacting Responsibly, published this week, they outline areas in which charities should improve their impact. It said that the sector needs more structured methodological impact data rather than relying on annual reports to tell its stories.
Members of the coalition include Candid (formerly Guidestar), the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, New Philanthropy Capital, and Salesforce.org.
The report covers how charities can use data, how they can engage staff and beneficiaries with it, how to handle privacy and data protection, and how to standardise outcomes to encourage greater collaboration and learning. It is organised thematically, with people in the sector offering their thoughts on how to improve reporting within the given theme.
The report says that impact data should come through leaders and be fostered throughout the workplace. It advises seeking feedback from beneficiaries about the services they receive and says that the sector should help smaller organisations to become more data aware. The report also says that the sector should create incentives for using evidence.
It adds that implementing these measures would help the sector become more transparent and develop long-term goals.
Speaking about hte report, Tris Lumley, director of innovation and development at NPC, said: “There’s virtually limitless potential for the social sector to use measurement and data for good, but we have to acknowledge that a lot of this data is generated from disadvantaged communities and a core part of our work should be thinking about who it belongs to, what value they could get from it, and empowering them to use it for their own benefit.”
Brian Komar, vice president of global impact at Salesforce.org, said: “The impact measurement movement presents a unique opportunity to reimagine how to address long-standing sector challenges including diversity and inclusion, beneficiary feedback, onerous reporting, and transparency and accountability.”
He added: “Overcoming these challenges and seizing these opportunities, however, will not happen if left to chance.”
The report also acknowledges the limits of data reporting and says that it is only one component in the sector’s transparency data.
“Understanding the limits of quantitive evidence, including their ability to persuade real humans to action, is important when thinking about what data might do for your organisation,” it concludes.