An effective social impact report focuses on a collective process that aligns impact thesis (ie. Theory Of Change), communicates intended and unintended learnings, and has strong buy-in from top management to EVERY stakeholder. Impact Reporting is a final step in building the impact framework, selecting metrics and collecting data. It starts with a well thought through Impact Management approach. Every organization must choose an approach based on their,
- Impact lens
- Reporting alignment
1) Stakeholders: Starting from our first guidebook Actionable Impact Management Volume One: Groundworks, we cannot stress enough the importance of involving stakeholders at every stage of impact management journey. There may be different stakeholders at different levels and Impact Reporting can mean different things to different stakeholders. List the stakeholders for your organization who would like to see your impact report.
2) Goal: What is your reporting goal?
- Customers and staff satisfaction?
- Show program or funding effectiveness?
- To scale/grow the organization?
- Evaluate risk and performance of organization working on a similar impact thesis?
Depending on your organization goal, you have different Impact Reports. Impact communication is not limited to just the staff members, volunteers, beneficiaries, and funders of the program but it is a piece of the puzzle for the more considerable system change. Each organization working towards the common goal has a responsibility to communicate their impact results to be able to evaluate the complete picture. As an example - if your organization is working for one particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) like job creation in an underserved community, then your impact report is adding towards the country's overall goal achievement which adds to the UN SDGs overall success.
3) Impact (or Investment) Lens: Depending on their target segment, for example, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environment & Sustainability, Impact Funds, Foundations, Nonprofit, Government Agency or Social Enterprise, there are different requirements and alignments required for the reporting. Investment lens can also be defined by a minority, gender, disability, geographical setting, poverty level, etc.
Somethings you also need to ask yourself. Are your reports
- For evaluation of ecosystem investment?
- Align with specific development goals and targets?
- Compare organization results with similar impact thesis?
- Make a case for better social return on investment?
4) Reporting Alignment: We have been talking to many impact organizations who start with impact reporting around standardization approaches - such as IRIS based metrics creating GIIRS rating in impact funds or AERIS ranking in CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions Fund) or MIX Market in Microfinance. While this approach serves a purpose of speaking the same language, it is often aligned for investors.
Once you have an Impact Report ready, how to communicate with your stakeholders? Impact report communication is to reach the correct audience depending on who the stakeholders are! Stay tuned for detail in our Actionable Impact Management Volume Four: Communication is releasing in March 2018. Stay connected. Additional Resources:
The future of impact management and reporting article provides unique perspectives from leading thought leaders.
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