How to Measure Your Charitable Impact

The value of your giving is only as good as the impact you have. 

What impact are you having?

I don’t mean what you’re ‘doing’ but rather how your charitable activities are actually making a difference to the lives of others or the planet. 

I recently heard about a charity ball a business organised. While it was lovely that they committed to raise funds for a charity they were supporting, the event took months to plan and cost the same financially to host as it generated from ticket sales. They did raise funds with a raffle but there didn’t seem to be any business benefit, and they may have been better making a financial donation, or just running a raffle without the ball, and saved themselves a lot of effort. 

How do you know the impact you’re having if you don’t measure it? 

Measuring your impact will help you:

  • Evaluate the extent to which your efforts have been worthwhile.
  • Determine which activities generate the best return on your social investment: for you, your business and the social cause.
  • Make informed decisions in the future i.e. which activities to continue, refine, repeat or stop doing.
  • Gather valuable information you can share with third parties – your clients, contacts, leads, partners and others interested in your social impact practices.

Such information is known as impact reporting: communicating the difference you are making to those you have pledged to help or a situation you are working towards improving.

We’re living in a time when consumers are putting pressure on businesses to ‘do the right thing’ and consider the social impact of their actions. Many consumers prefer to buy from companies who value (and can demonstrate) their social impact. In the last few months alone I’ve heard of two mobile apps being developed that track individuals’ social impact.

Likewise, some organisations prefer to buy from, or partner with, other businesses who can demonstrate the difference they are making. For example, in the UK it’s common practice for businesses bidding for public-sector contracts to be asked to evidence their social impact policies in their tender.

Proactively sharing your social impact demonstrates your level of commitment to make a difference and be transparent. When done well, this forms part of your brand, your ‘story’ and the business you attract.

What to measure

The variables to define and measure are those that demonstrate the benefits of your charitable activities – for you personally, your business, and charitable causes.

Measuring personal benefits is obviously a subjective exercise and involves taking the time to reflect on this. By contrast, measuring the impact for your business and cause is more objective and can be done by defining key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure regularly.

Business impact

It’s prudent to measure key KPIs for your business irrespective of any charitable giving. Here, all we’re doing is also extracting results relating specifically to your charitable activities. These could include:

  • Value of sales and profit
  • Number of referrals
  • Leads and clients – number and value
  • Visibility e.g. social media followers
  • Engagement with your audience, clients and business network
  • New opportunities to share your story (e.g. through interviews or speaking engagements).
Charitable impact

Examples of KPIs you could use to measure how your activities have benefited your cause of choice include:

  • Value of funds donated or raised
  • How specifically the lives of those you intend to help have been changed
  • Life-stories from beneficiaries that provide evidence of the impact of your charitable activities
  • Impact statistics, e.g. number of lives saved, people rescued, cured or employed
  • Quotes, testimonials, and feedback from volunteers and beneficiaries, on the difference your support has made
  • Messages of thanks – from beneficiaries and volunteers
  • Results of surveys – you do with those you’re aiming to help
  • Number of days you’ve volunteered or donated your time
  • Increased visibility (e.g. more media coverage or a greater presence on social media platforms)
  • New funding opportunities or grants
  • New supporters who pledge regular donations
  • New supporters on their database
  • Resources the cause could use to generate future income
  • New volunteers, board members, ambassadors or strategic partners.

Be mindful that recording what you’re doing, for example, how much you raise or donate, is useful data but may be more a measure of your contribution and results, rather than the actual impact you have had.

If you’re fundraising through your business, remember to check out any ‘cause marketing’ reporting and transparency requirements that apply to you. You can find out more in my Give-to-Profit book. 

There is a difference between your contribution and your social impact.

Raising funds, donating money and supporting a cause is only part of the story: how these resources are put to use also matters. In other words, being able to determine how your efforts have actually changed lives, saved lives, helped people increase their income, get jobs, etc.

If you’re supporting a cause that can tell you, for example, how many meals, school uniforms, mosquito nets or trees every few pounds or dollars buys, it’s easy to gather, record and share this information. The causes may also have further information on the ripple effects of how these resources have changed lives or improved the planet.

When deciding what to measure, it may also be worth considering what your audience want to know, and making sure you collate robust information that demonstrates this.

How to measure your impact

Once you’ve identified the key factors to measure it’s a case of integrating these into any business reporting processes you already have and allocating resources to do this effectively. The easiest way is to set up a spreadsheet to record targets, activities, and results for any relevant period – unless you’ve got a good software solution for doing this.

With advances in technology, we’re starting to see software that enables consumers and those supporting causes to track their impact using software and apps. For example, the social enterprise From Me to We enables their customers to track their impact on their website.

If you’re already regularly measuring and reviewing the performance of your business, e.g. reviewing key performance indicators monthly, quarterly or annually, simply update these to reflect your charitable activities.

The extent to which you need to monitor, evaluate and evidence your social impact depends on your business, the contracts you have, and any relevant legislation. That said, it’s good business practice to do this whether or not you are required to do so.

Impact reporting

Whether you’re obliged to share your results and impact with others, or you choose to do this voluntarily, the next stage is to decide how to do this – both with those who work in your business and externally.

You can collate and present this information in a number of different formats:

  • Written reports – including key data, trends, images, interviews and written commentary.
  • Info-graphics
  • Images
  • Videos.

There are many large charities and social causes that do this really well, so if you want to see examples of what you could do, it’s worth checking out a few of your favorite causes to see what they do – on their websites and social media platforms. You can often also download copies of reports from them too.

In the same way, I suggest integrating the gathering of key data into your internal performance management processes; consider how you can also feed your charitable impact results into your communication and marketing strategies.

You will find more about how to communicate your impact and story in my Give-to-Profit book. 

Transparency

It’s also worth considering how you can be open with the causes you support, your customers, partners, and followers.

Sharing results and information with them goes part of the way but the scope of being transparent is broader than sharing information. It also involves the full disclosure of things like your business ethics and values, how robust your systems and processes are, the disclosure of any ‘material’ facts or potential conflicts of interest, and how proactive you are in sharing all this information. 

One of the ways I’ve aimed to be transparent with my fundraising was to set up a fundraising page with a fundraising portal so people could see me processing donations and the main charity I was supporting also knew what I had raised. If you want to do this, just do an Internet search for ‘giving portal’ and you’ll find plenty to choose from. 

Key points

The value of your giving is only as good as the impact you have – raising funds, donating money and supporting a cause is only part of the story: how these resources are put to use also matters.

Increasingly, potential customers and business partners choose to do business with those who can demonstrate they are doing good in the world. So make sure you have robust and meaningful information you can share with them.

Get creative with ways of demonstrating your impact and create content in a range of different formats.

Integrate how you measure your charitable activities into your business management reporting, communication, and marketing strategies.

Social impact actions

  • For inspiration check out how charities and social causes you like are providing evidence of their impact. 
  • Decide how you’re going to evaluate the results of your charitable activities and what you’d like to share with your clients or followers.

This blog post is an extract of my book Give-to-Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes. If you have found this helpful, you can check out my book HERE.

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – please do share your comments below.

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Alisoun Mackenzie is The Compassionate Business Mentor, Author, and Speaker who inspires business owners and social entrepreneurs to turn their passions into profits and make a difference in the world. 

She is also the author of two Amazon Best Selling books Give to Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities Social Causes and Heartatude, The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success

Alisoun is also the founder of The Heartabiz Hub a business network and training academy and has written the following free ebooks:

  • The 9 Secrets to Signing Up Clients Without Selling (click here)
  • 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (click here)
  • 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business  (click here)

You can connect with Alisoun here:

  • Alisoun Mackenzie Facebook Fanpage (for tips on authentic living and business mastery) – click HERE
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  • Give To Profit Facebook Fanpage (tips on supporting charities and social causes) – click HERE
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