Impact measurement is a necessity for any social enterprise, nonprofit, or social impact organization looking to reach scale. It builds trust with external stakeholders, provides strategic insights that allow you to become more effective, and facilitates the kind of collaboration that is needed to tackle complex problems. But as we elaborate on in our new Guide to Measuring Your Social Impact, actually quantifying the impact you’re creating is a lot more complicated than it may seem. Without a universally agreed upon set of standards, opinions abound as to the right (and wrong) ways to do it – and it’s become a hotly debated topic.
In our work supporting social enterprises through our S-GRID Accelerator program, we’ve seen a number of different approaches to impact measurement. However, the most successful approaches we’ve seen have had certain things in common, which we’ve distilled in our latest guide. Whether you’re starting from scratch or already have an established Impact Measurement & Management (IMM) process, we’ve found that the following six steps will help your social enterprise become more effective at measuring and communicating your impact:
Step 1: Develop impact measurement objectives
Document why you want to measure your impact in the first place. For example, you may want to grow your revenues, improve your impact, lower your cost per unit, or to make your operations more ethical.
Step 2: Determine a metric for each objective
Use a resource like the IRIS+ Thematic Taxonomy for inspiration and as a shared language for describing, assessing, communicating, and comparing impact data.
Step 3: Identify the leanest way to measure it
Use a resource like Acumen’s Lean Data Field Guide to figure out how to get the information you need without over-investing.
Step 4: Decide which data points to report internally vs. externally
The more data you report and share publicly, the better – it demonstrates transparency and builds trust.
Step 5: Implement effective processes and tools
Incorporate tools like surveys and data visualization to help you collect, analyze, and share impact data on an ongoing basis.
Step 6: Evaluate and compare
Bring in a third party to evaluate and compare your impact data against others in the industry as a benchmark.
Learn more about each step and find a template to help you work through them in our Complete Guide to Measuring Your Social Impact!