The foundations of truly impact-driven organizations

How do you know that you’ve made a difference?

Organizations that are truly impact-driven are those whose purpose matches the experience of their core participants.

Socialsuite has been an invaluable tool as an end-to-end impact technology solution

David Jack, co-CEO
David Jack, co-CEO
Years working with purpose-driven organizations
team of storytellers, advisors and events professionals

It’s a simple question that at face value, many purpose-driven organizations think they can easily answer. But digging a little deeper, they realize they’re only scratching the surface, according to David Jack, co-CEO of impact advisory firm ImpactInstitute.

It’s also the first question Jack asks many organizations. Most will refer to the number of programs they run and the results they receive from satisfaction surveys.

“When participants tell you that the program was great, you had enough breaks, and the facilitation was excellent, you’re measuring the quality of delivery – not the value of the program in the life of the participant. Are you measuring this longer term value? Many organizations are not.”

The makings of an impact-driven organization

Organizations that are truly impact-driven are those whose purpose matches the experience of their core participants. It’s all about alignment, according to Jack.

“We are seeing that some parts of organizations are aligned to the impact they want to create, but others are most focused on outputs and outcomes. It’s not about being one or the other - it’s about being both,” he explains.

Impact-driven organizations have three things in common. They:

  • Have a clearly defined purpose
  • Think holistically about how they deliver experiences - from leadership and culture to finance and beyond
  • Align systems, processes and people around impact.
“Between your purpose and the experience of your participants, there's a whole supply chain that can be measured,” Jack says. “This includes your programs, services and products, your people and other resources.”

Making the most of data

Jack finds that while many organizations have defined and started measuring their impact, they’re not using data effectively.

“For some organizations, strategic planning is based on last year's program or budget as the baseline, when the evidence of impact should be informing key strategic decisions. Using evidence to properly interrogate and inform strategy enables leaders to plan and deliver with confidence.” Jack explains.

And telling compelling stories is an integral part of the strategy for purpose-driven organizations. But Jack says that while organizations may be sharing stories, they are not always the ones they should be telling.

“Some organizations are measuring and defining outcomes and impact, but not always using that evidence to inform their storytelling. They may be telling an output story not an impact story.”

For example, an organization might talk about the programs they received funding for, offering details such as the number of programs, and people who attended and that they were followed up and asked about their experiences.

“Reporting on outputs is important, but, what is of greater interest is how the program made a difference in the lives of participants.”

Impact Institute defines impact as long-term sustained, positive change. They urge organizations and their clients to ask themselves what their long-term positive change looks like - and focus on telling that story.

“Long term, sustained positive change is not well understood, nor measured by many organizations. However, funders, donors, supporters and program participants are increasingly expecting a focus on impact. And while organizations are doing their best to tell an impact story, many don’t have an impact framework that provides evidence to underpin them.”

Technology is an enabler

While technology is not a magic bullet, it is fundamental to measuring impact, according to Jack. Paper and Excel-based paper collection systems will only get you so far. If you want to scale you need to understand the impact on a whole-of-organization basis - from multiple clients across different programs in various locations, through different levels of an organization.

“You need to be able to utilize the data to contribute to program development, training and developing your team and to make the key program decisions. Technology is absolutely crucial these days to an organization's ability to get scale in a sustainable and consistent way,” Jack says.

A new path forward for purpose-driven organizations

Measuring your outcomes and impact can help you answer fundamental questions like:

  • Are there programs we should stop? Because they are not delivering impact.
  • Or new programs we should start that are on the back burner?
  • Or programs that we should be scaling? And if so, why? And where?
  • And where are the gaps? Into which we can innovate.

When evidence informs these questions, organizations can plan and deliver programs with an expectation of positive outcomes and impact, says Jack.

“Technology can play an important role in making key data and evidence accessible to inform the strategy conversation.
In our experience, Socialsuite has been an invaluable tool providing organizations with an end-to-end impact technology solution; from survey to analysis, reporting, data visualization and key insights. Providing leaders with a dashboard to inform daily as well as strategic decision making.”

Are you impact-driven?

Here are five questions to help you find out if your organization is impact-driven.

  1. Are you defining impact?
  2. Are you measuring impact?
  3. Are you communicating impact?
  4. Is your organization continuously learning based on the evidence of impact?
  5. Is your organization growing, and experiencing sustainability as a result of that continuous learning process?

You can find out more about Impact Institute and all their great work on their website. Why not reach out and see how they can your organization become impact driven?

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