Unmesh Sheth 11/7/16 3:06 PM 4 min read

The main challenges that non-profits faces in impact measurement

Impact measurement is a buzz-word in the social sector and no organization wants to be caught dead without a strategy in place. Despite growing excitement and genuine efforts, the reality is often different. Impact management is often perceived as an expensive box-ticking exercise and in many organizations data-driven decision-making remains mere wishful thinking at this point. There are a number of barriers that prevent integrated impact management from becoming the new normal in the social sector:

Tool barrier: Delays make insights irrelevant

Many organizations are trying to change their organizational culture to become more impact and data driven. However, arcane excel-based data management systems continue to be in place. This causes delays and hinders efforts to integrate impact measurement into the overall program strategy. As a result, monitoring and evaluation often do not take place within a timeframe that is useful to the program administrators.

Belief and process barrier: Measuring what matter requires input and commitment from program managers

Impact measurement is often perceived to be out of touch with the realities of the program. Program makers and evaluators often work in isolation, partly to ensure that monitoring and evaluation can be carried out without bias. The result of this isolation is frequently, that program makers are not involved enough and do not understand how the overall program can benefit from data. This perception is further enforced if metrics are badly defined because relevant exchanges have not taken place. If metrics definition becomes the bottleneck of your impact strategy, you risk wasting a lot of resources and may fail to measure what matters.

Tool and belief barrier:Impact management tool is an administrative burden

When impact measurement isn´t integrated into the day-to-day process of the project it feels like an extra burden that needs to be managed in addition to the program's actual activities. Thus for some, impact management feels like a drain on rather than an enhancer of the project. This perception is further aggravated when data collection is managed through Excel and email or when indicators are too ambiguous to be self-explanatory.

Tool and process barrier: Impact management tool is expensive

Many program makers find, often rightly, that costs of impact assessment are disproportionate to the costs of the programs they are looking to evaluate. Digitalization has driven down costs in data collection but the stigma remains and is intensified if program makers do not benefit from insights generated through impact measurement in the form of reports that meet their needs and time lines.

Systems barrier: Impact management tool require sophisticated IT services

New systems have become available to help organizations administrate their impact measurement needs. However these systems often require sophisticated technical knowledge for system or project specific changes and create dependencies if they cannot be self-administered.


Unmesh Sheth

32 years of track record In technology companies, innovation, leadership. Deep understanding of bottom-up and top-down data trust challenges in high impact philanthropy and impact investments.