“Now!” is always my answer to the question “When should I start measuring my social impact?”
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how new or small you are as a social enterprise, it’s never too soon to start measuring your impact.
In fact, it’s better if you do it from the beginning and as you go along because it becomes part of your regular tasks, built in to your workload and isn’t seen as an addition or ‘nice to do’ in the distant future. Plus, it can become really quite difficult to collect data and evidence in retrospect, so doing it as you go along saves a whole load of headache later.
But many social entrepreneurs I speak to say they don’t feel like they’re delivering enough impact yet, or they’re not ‘where they want to be’, so don’t see the point in measuring or communicating their impact:
We’ve only just started
I don’t feel like we’re achieving enough to share what we’ve done yet
Our results / impact isn’t very impressive, yet
And I totally get this, we want to be able to present the perfect picture of an incredibly successful, financially sustainable and impactful social enterprise. One who is confident in everything they’re doing and quite happy to sing and dance about the incredible work they do, the lives they change and the impact we create.
But in most cases this is unrealistic.
Not because it won’t someday happen but because if you’re just at the start of your journey you’re unlikley to be achieving your vision yet. And that’s okay!
First of all your vision is the end goal. The destination.
Nobody expects you to be there right now.
But you can’t wait until you get there to start measuring or communicating your impact. Or at least I strongly recommend you don’t.
You’re customers, clients, funders etc want to know what progress you’re making towards achieving your vision, just as much as seeing you succeed at the end. And this is as much a part of your impact story as the all singing, all dancing report you might create when your 5 years in to running your business.
Measuring your impact, and even communicating some of your results is important because right now at the start of your journey you’re trying to build relationships. Relationships based on evidence and trust that you do (or are at least trying to do) what you say you want to do. And communicating your impact, or at least your outcomes to date, are a fantastic way to achieve this.
Customers are just as interested in your milestones as they are in your long term goals. So you should share this with them too.
For example, if you’re a business with a buy one give one model, sharing your first sale is a huge milestone because it’s your first step to 50, 100 even a 1000 customers. And you can talk about the impact that one sale has made and how you’re looking forward to multiplying this by 10.
If you’re impact is more likely to take time to be achieved, for example you provide the training that you hope will help a young women secure employment and financial sustainability for her family, but the training is a year long and they may not get a job immediately. Then don’t wait until they have the job to share the story. Tell us about the incredible people on the training, their hopes and dreams, the milestones they go through and the journey you’re taking them through.
Even the smallest of outcomes or impact will be of interest to your community. And it keeps them informed of the work you are doing and the difference it makes.
So if you’re just starting out, or not sure about whether you’re achieving enough yet to measure and communicate your impact here are some simple things for you to help you get started:
communicate your vision - tell people about what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan to get there
celebrate your smallest/first success and tell people what impact this has, or will contribute to in the long run
continue to share your successes along the way - decide what milestones are significant to you and your audience, and don’t underestimate the power of even the smallest changes you create
will facts and figures take longer to demonstrate the impact in your enterprise? Then think about the stories, feedback and testimonials you can collect in the meantime which connects to the impact you want to evidence in the longer term
be clear about what impact you want to capture
create a process for consistently capture data and evidence to demonstrate your impact so it becomes part and parcel of your usual workload (and not an add-on)
Remember, now is the time to start measuring and communicating your impact whatever stage of your impact journey your on. If you’re running a social enterprise you’re more than probably already delivering some incredible impact.
Share Impact helps organisations measure and communicate their social or environmental impact so they can confidently communicate: why they exist, the difference they make and why others should care.
We provide research & evaluation services; training; consultancy, business mentoring and communication management with a focus on social impact measurement and reporting.
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