Free social impact measurement tools to even the playing field

In the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, money is increasingly tied to impact data. This sounds sensible, but measuring social impact is difficult and a lack of both resources and know-how in impact reporting leaves many organisations at a disadvantage to secure funding.

“There are many small organisations that just can’t afford to pay a consultancy, which means that the playing field is not even,” says Prof Bronwen Dalton, Director of the Masters of Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Management Program at UTS.

“It’s important to give all NFPs a fair chance to make their work shine, regardless of their location, size or resources.”

Because so many organisations tap in the dark, it has spurred the growth of an expensive consultancy industry who keep social impact reporting knowledge and validated instruments locked behind paywalls.

To democratise social impact measurement Prof Bronwen Dalton launched the ‘Measuring Social Impact Toolbox’ – a set of resources free to all organisations regardless of their size, location or budget.

Beginning with that staple of the feedback survey ‘what do you think about us?’ she quickly bursts the bubble around standard conventions.

“Almost all service providers have some sort of feedback survey to determine whether their work is actually making a difference. So we ask people ‘what do you think about us?’ or ‘do you like our program?’

“But if you think about it, it is virtually impossible to determine whether someone has learned something or changed something in their lives by asking them what they think of you. So it is really important to start asking the right questions to get the answers we want,” she explains.

Bringing evidence-based, methodologically rigorous program evaluation within reach of any and all NFPs, the free online course is funded by a partnership between UTS and Community Sector Banking. Over 35 organisations have already enrolled and started using the tools to improve their reporting.

Prof Dalton is particularly passionate about advocating for NFPs as she has had to access support services herself.

“These organisations are important; they open up opportunities, save lives and get people through difficult times. We must never underestimate their value.”

The Problem

Funding for the NFP sector is increasingly allocated on the basis of impact data. Smaller organisations risk losing their funding because they lack the capacity and knowledge to measure – and thus demonstrate – the social outcomes of their work.

The Response

UTS Prof Bronwen Dalton launched a project to make validated measurement tools available to anyone, along with knowledge of what and how to measure.

What helped accomplish this?

Resources include instruments such as surveys, questionnaires, templates and reports – freely available to anyone who seeks to make a social change and report on it.

What has changed as a result?

Since its launch, over 35 organisations have enrolled to the platform and started using the available tools.


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