There is undoubtedly a growing interest in impact measurement in the not-for-profit sector. Funders increasingly expect it and, independent of funder demands, charities are seeing the need to have a clear approach to understanding and communicating the change they make for the investment they receive. However at each training and support session that we provide to enthusiastic and often slightly overwhelmed managers, the question asked is ‘how will we find the time and the resources to do this well?’.
It is true that here are currently few state resources available within Ireland to point people towards, unlike the U.K where significant states resources have been channeled into supporting services to develop a better understanding of outcome measurement. However the situation is not entirely hopeless, as there are definite things that services can do, within existing resources, to move in the direction they want to go.
That said funding agencies need to note that this work is not always easy and when done well and meaningfully it’s not definitely not free. It takes human resources, training and opportunities to collaborate and bring staff together. This all takes time and resources, and with many charity budgets stripped of training resources this can pose a real challenge.
The best outcomes reporting systems integrate the collection of data into daily work practice. It’s not data collection for its own sake but a valued part of what workers do. To do this well a purpose built IT system will really assist. Significant donated IT resources are available in Ireland through www.ENCLUDE.ie, who make available the best of client management systems (CRMs) to charities at no direct cost. CRMs are the gold standard of information management systems as these can manage complex work focused around people and systems, and are adaptable to different services needs. These are be worth up to €18,000 per organisation per year, and the functionality matches that price tag.
However in order to get a donated CRM to work for your service, resources are required to configure it to your needs. This means a developer or programmer needs to adapt the system to the specific work that you do and the way you do it. We work closely with Enclude to help collectives of service providers develop systems that help them get their best of their information and work processes.
The first steps in the outcome reporting journey can be done slowly, without too many direct costs. However for services and commissioners to get the best out of outcome reporting processes, we need funders to acknowledge that this work is important and is not free. Charities need supports to achieve their best, and this includes being supported to spend time and money on developing effective systems for impact measurement.
Need a starting point? Read our free guide to help you understand some of the potential first steps and the core concepts in relation to impact measurement.