Why, when and for whom measure impact?

Before you start, it’s good to define your reason for starting impact management. And what is the target group you want to communicate your impact to?

Why measuring 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, and also make it visible, to communicate to your customers, suppliers or funders? Or just to motivate all employees by expressing the impact of their work? Measuring impact can also be used to gain insight into what (not) works and to improve on this, possibly by benchmarking with other organizations. The figure below provides an overview, and emphasizes that impact management aims not only  to prove, but to improve.

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 stay the same. It’s necessary for both aims. Because if you don’t measure your impact it’s the same as a commercial organization which does not know how much profit it makes.

Dr. Karen Maas
Erasmus University Amsterdam

When measuring impact?

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

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

For whom to 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. In reality, too often activities are developed that have little effect because the solution was not sufficiently attuned to the problems, needs and context 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, 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. You find a template here.