Communicating the impact of your work is an important way to ensure your project can be sustained over the long-term.
WHY is impact reporting important?
Put simply, it isn’t enough to do great work. If you want to sustain the work you are doing, you need to be able to communicate the value of that work to a wide variety of stakeholders.
WHO is your audience?
Understanding who your primary audience is really goes a long way to determining how you should communicate with them. It many situations you will have several audiences, but it is always worth working out who is the most important one. Potential stakeholders include funders and grant bodies, local community members, local politicians, volunteers and potential staff, etc. Once you know who you are aiming at you can go on to think about your key messages and how to communicate them.
WHEN should you think about communicating impact?
The obvious answer is the sooner the better. When setting up a new project it is good to think at the outset how the success of the project will be measured. It is not surprising that your funders will often encourage you to state how you will measure a project from the very outset.
However, it is never too late to start thinking about your impact. Start simply by setting aside some time aside to think about the key outcomes you are working towards and how you can measure them.
Gathering information routinely makes it easier than having to scrabble about finding statistics and quotes at the last minute. So, think about how gathering and collating information can be built into your service and project delivery. For example, always ask customers or beneficiaries for feedback immediately, rather than having to go back to them some time after.
WHAT should you communicate?
First this should be tailored to who you are as an organisation and who your audience is.
Here at CRNS we have seen how each of our members communicates their impact and we also produce our own impact report for the community resources sector as a whole. These experiences have led us to develop what we call the 4 P’s model. Those working in the circular economy are demonstrating care for:
- Planet (environmental benefits). Potential items to report include how many tonnes you are diverting from landfill and the CO2 savings which result from this.
- People (social benefits). Potential indicators include how many beneficiaries you are working with and how many jobs you have created and sustained?
- Pounds (economic benefits). For example, what is the turnover of your organisation, how much money has been invested in the local economy through reuse activity?
- Place (community benefits). Here we are looking for stories, quotes and feedback on how your organisation is impacting the local community in which you are based. This is more a qualitative measure (rather than quantitative)
HOW should you communicate?
This is where you can use your imagination as there is a huge range of options available.
At one extreme you could conduct a full blown Theory of Change based assessment (using input, activity, output, outcomes and impact). On the other hand, a simple leaflet where each page features a compelling story or quote, strong image and related statistic can be remarkably effective too.
Here are a few options we have tried at CRNS recently:
Remember who your audience is as this will help determine the best way to communicate with them – for example, do they have several hours to read a detailed report or a few seconds to see a short post on social media?
Full members of CRNS have access to our detailed membership survey which will help you see how your organisation fits in with the wider community resources sector.
Michael Cook, CEO
CRNS would like to acknowledge the financial support of Scottish Communities Alliance in developing our Impact Reporting model – the 4 P’s.