Funders want to know about the difference their money could make. Sarah Handley shares tips on how charities can demonstrate impact in their applications
Competition for funding is high, and charities increasingly need to prove the difference they make. This is no bad thing: charities are responsible to beneficiaries to make sure they are meeting their needs, and measuring the impact of their work is a crucial step towards making sure that they do.
It's no longer good enough just to count your outputs or describe your activities — and both charities and funders know it. So here are some tips on how to start thinking about measuring and sharing information on the impact you make:
Think: 'impact first, activity later'
Prioritise telling your funders about the impact that their funding will have, rather than focusing on how you’re collecting the data. Funders should hear about the difference your charity will make first, and the activities and outputs second. Telling people that your beneficiaries will be more independent with better parenting skills is a powerful opening. The fact you ran ten courses and 100 people came along? Less so.
To entice a funder, show them evidence of the difference you’ve already made. This doesn’t need to be via endless statistics, but try to avoid relying on just a handful of stories. “No numbers without stories; no stories without numbers” remains an extremely helpful motto. Case studies are a great way of communicating the human angle, but you need something a bit more robust that shows the difference you have made on a decent sample of beneficiaries. One good place to start is to use results from well-written pre- and post- intervention questionnaires.
Back it up
It’s likely that someone, somewhere has researched the area you are working in. It is really worth tracking down the relevant literature, and referring to it into your application. This makes your work more credible, and will help your impact story to make sense - particularly if you are only just starting to collect your own data.
Don’t over-egg the pudding
Don’t pretend you can change the world. It’s probably reasonable to say you will contribute to a change or improvement, but be careful about over-claiming. Funders will see through it at precisely the time when you need to appear realistic. If you know the intermediate outcome to which you will contribute, and you can match that to wider research, then you can make a very strong claim based on exactly that.
Be honest about what you’ve learned
It’s great if you’ve collected lots of data and analysed it well. But please don’t forget to talk about what you’ve learned from all of this, and how you’ve implemented that learning. If you found out something negative, be honest. Honesty about failure is impressive, and even innovative. And it shows a genuine commitment to improving your impact.
Sarah Handley is a senior consultant at NPC