How to Measure Your Impact

The value of your actions is only as good as the impact you have. What impact are you having?

I don’t mean what you’re ‘doing’ but rather the extent to which your actions are 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: calculating and 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, employees and investors are putting pressure on businesses to ‘do the right thing’ and consider the social and environmental impact of their actions. Many consumers prefer to buy from companies who value (and can demonstrate) their 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 impact policies in their tender.

Proactively sharing your 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 social impact activities – for you personally, your business, and 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 KPIs for your business irrespective of any impact actvities such as your number of sales, value of sales, value of profits, your profit margin, number of customers, leads, trends, results from marketing campaigns etc.

Measuring your impact involves coming up with KPIs that can demonstrate the impact of all your business activities as everything you do has an impact.

What results, outcomes or benefits have your clients, contacts or people experienced as a direct result of buying from you or working with you?

You can measure at various levels – the impact on individuals, collectively or at a product/service level.

Let’s explore the example of someone buying a book you’ve written:

  • How many people read or complete your book?
  • How many people who buy your book think/feel/act differently as a consequence or reading it?
  • What impact do their actions have on others or the planet?
  • To what extent to readers actions live up to the desired outcomes you want for them?
  • What impact does someone buying a book have on you?

All too often businesses just focus on the volume or value of sales rather than whether or not the sale meets desired impacts (if indeed the business has even considered a desired impact). Of course it’s good to measure sales and profits but how do you know your books are having a positive impact as oppose to adding to the consumption of paper or sitting on unread on bookshelves?

Environmental impact

There’s been an increasing awareness and focus in recent years on the environmental impact businesses are having on the planet. What you’re doing to minimise your footprint, consumption, pollution, carbon footprint and make the world a better place is all under scrutiny. If you are to be able to share the positive impact you are having, you need to be setting yourself environmental KPIs, measuring these and sharing your results with others.

These could include:

  • Reduction in production of paper (by consuming less paper and switching to re-cycled products)
  • Embracing the circular economy through recyling resources in the production of your products/services
  • Using suppliers that offset or reward your activities by supporting environmental projects
  • Carbon footprint offsetting impacts e.g. planting trees whenever you take a flight
  • Reduction in travel for meetings e.g. through use of video calls or watching life-stream events rather than attending in person
  • Minimising the use of single use plastics
Charitable impact

If you’ve incorporated charitable giving into your business here are some examples of KPIs you could use to measure how your charitable activities are benefiting causes you support:

  • 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.

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 impact.

Be mindful that recording what you’re doing e.g. how much money you’ve raised for charity is useful data but is a measure of your contribution, rather than the actual impact you have had. Raising funds, donating money and supporting a cause is only part of the story: it’s how these resources are put to use that really matters.

Your contribution is what you do or are doing. Your impact is what’s changed as a direct consequence your actions. 

Likewise, listing what you’re doing to reduce your environmental impact or engage staff is just that: what your doing rather than the positive (or negative) impact of your actions.

Determining your impact can be made easier by supporting causes that can tell you e.g. how many meals, school uniforms, mosquito nets or trees every few pounds or dollars buys and the impact of supply these.

When deciding what to measure, it is 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.

One of my Give-to-Profit Podcast guests Philip Haid shares some great tips for measuring your impact during our conversation. You can tune in to this interview here.

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. Here is a link to my Business Giving Page to find out how I’ve decided to do this.

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 aim to be transparent with my fundraising is to have a fundraising page through a fundraising portal so people could see me processing donations.  This also enabled the charity I was supporting to see 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.

One of my Give-to-Profit Podcast guests Carline McKenna shares more about why transparency is important and what you can do to be more transparent during our conversation here.

Key points

The value of your giving and what you do 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 impact activities into your business management reporting, communication, and marketing strategies.

Impact actions

  • For inspiration check out how socially and environmentally conscious businesses, charities and social causes you like are providing evidence of their impact.
  • Decide how you’re going to evaluate the impact of what you’re doing and what you’d like to share with your clients or followers.

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

  • 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business  (click here)
  • 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (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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