Measuring Impact – Why, When and for Whom?

Before you start, it’s good to define two things: First, your reason for starting impact management, and second, the target group you want to communicate your impact to.

Why Measure Impact?

There are many reasons to start measuring your impact, and they can be both internally and externally motivated. Maybe you want to have an insight into your impact, make it visible, communicate it to your customers, suppliers or funders. Or maybe you want to motivate your employees by stressing the impact of their work. Measuring impact can also be used to gain insight into what does or does not work and to improve current states, for example by benchmarking with other organizations. The figure below provides an overview of the cycle and shows that impact management aims not only to prove, but to improve your organization.

It doesn’t matter why you want to measure your impact, be it for your CSR policy or for philanthropic reasons. The approach and the reasoning behind it stay the same, and it’s necessary for both aims – if you don’t measure your impact it’s like a commercial organization which does not know how much profit it makes.

Dr. Karen Maas
Erasmus University Amsterdam

When to Measure Impact?

You can measure your impact before, during or after the activity is carried out. It depends on what you want to achieve: whether you want to identify the expected impact beforehand, to test hypotheses, or to evaluate your operation.

Source: VISES (2017). Second Thematic Scripture of the VISES Project.

For Whom do you Measure Impact?

In order to come up with a good impact question, it is important to know what the needs and wants of your target group are. Planned activities often prove to be ineffective because the approach wasn’t sufficiently attuned to the specific problems and needs of the target group.

Some useful questions:

  • Who are the users of the impact evaluation?
  • What do they consider important?
  • What will they use the results for?

Determine Impact:

'Are we reaching the goal?'

Explain Impact:

'How are we achieving the goal?'

Increase Impact:

'Are we doing the right interventions to achieve the goal and how can we optimize the interventions we do?'

Proving Impact:

'Are we the cause?'

The value proposition canvas

To learn more about your target group, you can use the value proposition canvas as well.

If you’re not yet familiar with this model you can get a full explanation on the video below.