Resources  ·  Posted June 7, 2024

Measuring & Communicating Impact

Part 2 of our Social Business Support blog series is all about collecting and analysing data so that you can understand and communicate your impact.

As a social business, measuring and communicating your impact is crucial to your purpose, values, beneficiaries and funders.

Why is impact measurement so important?

  • Impact reporting helps you to monitor your effectiveness, ensuring what you’re doing is actually working (and in the way you intend).
  • It can help you develop your product or service to become better.
  • Having data across multiple years enables you to understand any external influences on your work (e.g. Brexit, Cost of Living, a change of government, wars, environmental emergencies, etc.). This can help you to address further needs in your community, or mitigate risk.
  • Most funders or investors require evidence during their application process to prove your project is worth supporting. And almost all funders request a follow-up report to understand how their support made a difference.
  • Being able to communicate your impact can bring in more business. Socially-conscious consumers will often seek out and select social businesses over corporate brands.

How can you measure social impact?

You don’t need to be, or employ, a research expert to measure your impact. If you’re just starting out, or you haven’t got the funds to pay a professional, you are absolutely capable of collecting useful and interesting data that monitors social impact.

The first step is to understand exactly what you need to measure. It sounds obvious, but plenty of charities and social businesses get lost in measuring everything and fail to streamline and prioritise what they capture. This can lead to a confusing mass of numbers, wasted effort, unnecessarily long processes and ultimately meaningless or unused data.

I highly recommend following NPC’s Theory of Change in Ten Steps to get started. It takes you through a comprehensive process to interrogate and clarify your goals, intermediate outcomes, and the activities you use to reach them. From there, you can identify what information you need to collate in order to measure your impact.

For example…

Your social business is a café with a goal of supporting young people into employment. So, the most important metric to measure is simple. How many young people move into jobs or further training after their stint with you? It’s also useful to use this number as a success rate; what percentage were successful out of all the young people you took on?

The activities you do to reach your goal are: on-the-job training, work experience and one-to-one mentoring. Through those activities, you identify some key intermediate outcomes that make your young people more employable. Some can be measured through objective record keeping – e.g. attendance, punctuality and retention (what percentage make it to the end of your programme). Other outcomes require more subjective data collection – e.g. increase in confidence, development of job-specific skills, improvement in future outlook, greater understanding of workplace behaviour. This could comprise some of your own observations, but it is more powerful when it is self-reported by the young people.

It’s often useful to collect intermediate outcome data at various points along the journey (e.g. beginning, middle, end) so that you can track progress (and make adjustments if necessary). It also gives you a body of evidence to present to funders that shows your project has made a positive difference, even if the ultimate goal isn’t reached in all cases.

Using our café example…

A young person may be doing great until they’re halfway through the programme, then something you have no control over happens and they have to leave. Whilst they may not move into a job straight away, the skills and confidence they gained on your programme have improved their employability. If you’ve captured some data to prove that, it offers a more holistic, authentic picture of what your social business / charity is achieving.

Types of data

It’s good to capture different types of data to be used in different ways. Below are some popular types used in impact evaluation:

  • Numbers and percentages offer ‘hard’, quantitative data to create bold headlines about your impact. E.g. “80% of The Melting Pot’s members work in social innovation”.
  • Likert scales given before, during and after an intervention allow you to track changes in people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviours over time. E.g. “60% of young people reported an increase in confidence after working at the café for 3 months”.
  • Short quotes / testimonials offer a soundbite about people’s experiences of your social business.
  • Case studies tell longer stories about a specific beneficiary or group. They are great for providing context, describing a journey and emotionally connecting with the reader.

Data collection

  • It’s good to assess what data you’re already collecting for operational purposes, as there may be helpful statistics to take from these.
  • Surveys, especially online, are really easy ways to collect, store and analyse data.
  • Focus groups or one-to-one interviews provide rich qualitative data. Interviews are especially useful for developing case studies.

It’s important to think about who you’re collecting data from and adapt accordingly. Consider literacy and skills levels, communication capabilities, physical capabilities and access (including digital access).

Ethical considerations

Before respondents take part in a survey or focus group etc, you need to make them aware of how the data may be used – e.g. annual reports, website, social media, funding applications, press releases etc. This is particularly important with quotes and case studies. It is best to obtain written consent (or use a tickbox in an online survey) to share these publicly, and you can offer the choice of anonymity or a pseudonym as well.

If at any point a respondent requests that their quote or data is no longer used, you must delete it.

It is also best practice to store any identifiable data in password-protected digital files, or lockable physical files.

Communicating impact

Once you’ve collected some meaningful, interesting data, you’ll want to shout about it. Most organisations will do this through an annual report and fundraising applications, but stats and quotes can be used across various marketing materials and social media posts to strengthen a message.

Wherever you use them, it is important to display them in a clear, engaging way.

  • Be purposeful in which data you present to the world. Whilst all the data you collect should be helpful to you and your team, your audience does not need every detail. Topline, intriguing, surprising, galvanising or impressive stats should be given priority.
  • If you still have a lot of metrics to report on, make sure you break them down into manageable, thematic chunks – and prioritise within those chunks.
  • Do not just list row after row of numbers or percentages. The reader will soon tire of this.
  • Use an array of data types to tell a rounded story.
  • Display quantitative data in interesting visual ways. I’m a big fan of infographics and highly recommend the book Information is Beautiful by David McCandless for inspiration.

Further reading

In this article, I have tried to outline the basics of data collection and impact evaluation. There are plenty of other great online resources which go into more detail, plus some organisations who can help you set up your own measurement tools. Here are a few I found…

Evaluation Support Scotland

Social Value Lab

Impact and evaluation | NCVO

Measuring impact: a guide to resources and tools | The Guardian

Overview: Data collection and analysis methods in impact evaluation | Better Evaluation


Whilst we’re on the subject, you can check out The Melting Pot’s latest social impact report and Good Ideas 10-year impact report for a couple of examples.


Author bio

Lucinda Jeffery is a Marketing Consultant, has worked in trust fundraising for charities like WorkingRite and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and has two science degrees to her name. Her most recent research project (for her MSC in Gastronomy) explored how non-profit cooking interventions in Scotland improve people’s psychological wellbeing.

Find Lucinda on LinkedIn

Instagram @roseberry_marketing