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Impact Metrics

Elevate your impact strategy to new heights by integrating standard and custom metrics with Sopact's expertly designed templates and data-driven approach.

Impact Metrics

Impact metrics, also known as outcome metrics, are measures used to evaluate the effects of a specific initiative, program, or project on a targeted population or environment. These metrics assess how well an organization achieves its goals and can include quantitative and qualitative data. They differ from output metrics, which measure a program's intermediate activities or deliverables, such as the number of people served or the number of workshops held. Impact metrics are used to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization's work and can be used to inform decision-making, set targets, and track progress over time.

Impact Metrics Fundamental

When evaluating the effectiveness of an organization's initiatives, programs, or projects, impact metrics are a crucial tool. These metrics are used to assess how well an organization is achieving its goals by measuring the actual effects of its work on a targeted population or environment. Impact metrics can be both quantitative and qualitative and help demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization's efforts.

One important aspect of impact metrics is that they focus on outcomes rather than inputs or activities. Output metrics, for example, measure a program's intermediate activities or deliverables, such as the number of people served or the number of workshops held. On the other hand, impact metrics measure the actual impact of those activities and deliverables on the targeted population or environment.

For example, an organization working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students may use output metrics such as the number of students enrolled in its programs or the number of hours of tutoring provided. However, the organization's impact metrics would measure the actual impact of those activities on students' academic performance and graduation rates.

When selecting impact metrics, it's essential to ensure they are directly related to the organization's goals and objectives. In addition, impact metrics should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). It's also essential to have short-term and long-term impact metrics to track progress over time.

Additionally, Impact metrics should be relevant to the population or group at which the initiative, program, or project is aimed and should be reliable, valid, and generalizable.

Organizations must also have systems to collect and analyze data to use impact metrics effectively. This data can track progress over time and adjust programs as needed. A precise data collection and analysis plan can help ensure that the information is accurate and that the metrics are appropriately used to make data-driven decisions.

Overall, impact metrics is a crucial tool for evaluating the effectiveness of an organization's work. By focusing on outcomes rather than inputs or activities and selecting metrics directly related to the organization's goals and objectives, impact metrics can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of programs and help organizations achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.

Quantitative Impact Metrics

By definition, a  metric is a quantifiable measure used to assess the result of a specific process. Selecting the right metrics can be challenging, so many organizations measure the wrong things, misrepresenting their impact. 
Your organization will gain credibility with funders, donors, and the public by measuring what matters. Not to mention all the insights you will gather to plan for potential risks and make well-informed decisions.
There are two ways to define your metrics.
  • Selecting them from well-known standards or
  • Creating bespoke metrics. 
First, let’s dive into standard metrics. Do you know how to select the proper standard for you? Try the following guidelines:
  • What changes are my programs or projects generating? 
For example, if your impact strategy claims to be creating quality jobs, ask yourself if the jobs generated are really “quality.” It"s not en." It measures how many new jobs you are creating. Are the jobs paying enough to have a quality life? Do employers offer relevant benefits like healthcare? In this example, you must define what you consider a quality job in your beneficiaries' cbeneficiaries'ants to know the result of your programs or projects. 
Are you collecting data insights for external audiences such as your beneficiaries, funders, and the public? Or is it for your internal audiences, such as staff and volunteers? Every one of them may like to know the result of different metrics. 

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Impact Metrics

I’ll give you thI'llswer to this one: both. Numbers help show improvement over time and see trends, but they are not enough to tell a complete story. Supplementing quality data with stories, images, and testimonials helps build credibility. 

Output vs. Outcome Impact Metrics

Remember that impact refers to a systemic change, which is hard to measure. However, outcome metrics can serve as an indicator of the shift happening when analyzed over time. You will find it easy to select activity and output metrics but always include a few relevant outcome metrics. 
  • Do you have the financial and human resources to collect the metrics results?
While selecting your metrics, don’t forget that your organization has the necessary budget and capacity to collect the results for those metrics. Remember, we are not establishing metrics for the sake of it; we want to measure what matters and be able to back up the results with reliable data.
As I mentioned, different standard metrics have been defined by organizations like the Global Impact Investment Network and the United Nations. In addition, these organizations dedicate resources to research and refine these metrics, so you have a reliable source of information.

Standard Impact Metrics

While standard metrics are carefully worded by impact thought leaders, there is no one-size-fits-all to impact measurement. It might be the case that you identify a pertinent metric (aligned to one of your draft metrics), but with a few alterations, it could better meet your needs. By tweaking that metric (documenting exactly how you’ve altered the base metric in your records), you can benefit from the research done to craft that careful wording and help it better reflect the outcome of your intervention.

Custom Impact Metrics

Unfortunately, you will find that there are very few outcomes (results) metrics amongst the standards. It might be the case that you need help finding standards that reflect your draft outcome metrics. In that case, you can still benefit from threads by replicating the language when crafting your own metric.

How to design impact metrics

Design Considerations

  • What changes are my programs or projects generating? 
  • Who wants to know the result of my programs or projects? 
  • Should my metrics be quantitative or qualitative? 
  • Should I measure outputs or outcomes?
  • Do you have the financial and human resources to collect the metrics results?
  • Select standards metrics while communicating to funders and custom metrics for internal
  • You may not always find the most relevant metrics from the standards-based catalog. In fact, if you find, sometime you will have to modify to meet the context




  • Mission Critical?  Aligned to your Mission Statement?
  • Realistic to Measure?
    Will this metric be logistically manageable?
  • Is it cost-effective? Already being Measured?
    Or is this data already collected and accessible?
  • Reason for Measuring Is this for your own measurement needs or to
    report to an external entity?
  • Outcome Metric?
    Is this metric measuring the results of your intervention (rather than activities)?
  • Worth Measuring? Based on the information above, is there a strong case for this metric? YES NO
  • Keep Going Hold onto the metric
    for the future or find a
    proxy metric


Baseline Impact Metrics

Baseline Metrics are the ‘before’ intervention measurement, in year zero of your program. This is what you will compare your metrics to as time goes on to identify the change that has occurred. You may want to be able to compare with areas outside of your intervention, such as national or regional averages. This is called ‘benchmark data.’ You might only

have one metric that you want benchmark data for, or you may decide that it’s needed for every metric.

Here are some places you can go to find benchmark data:

  • Socital Data
  • Household Community Data
  • OECD Regional Statistics and Indicators

The General Social Survey (GSS)

Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has provided politicians, policymakers, and scholars with a clear and unbiased perspective on what Americans think and feel about such issues as national spending priorities, crime and punishment, intergroup relations, and confidence in institutions.

The Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS)

The Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) is a household survey program focused on generating high-quality data, improving survey methods, and building capacity. The goal of the LSMS is to facilitate the use of household survey data for evidence-based policymaking.

The Family Life Surveys (FLS) are a set of detailed household and community surveys of developing countries conducted by the RAND Corporation, in collaboration with research institutions in the given countries. The currently available country surveys cover Malaysia (1976-77, 1988-89), Indonesia (1993, 1997, 2000), Guatemala (1995), and Bangladesh (1996).

The OECD has developed two statistical databases to answer the increasing demand for statistical information at the regional level:

  • The OECD Regional Database provides a unique set of comparable statistics and indicators on about 2 000 regions in 35 countries. It currently encompasses yearly time series for around 40 indicators of demography, economic accounts, labor market, social and innovation themes in the OECD member countries and other economies.
  • The OECD Metropolitan Database provides a set of economic, environmental, social, labor market and demographic estimated indicators on the 281 OECD metropolitan areas (functional urban areas with 500 000 or more inhabitants).
National and International Statistical Agencies

OECD data are supplied by national statistical offices from member countries and presented in a comparative format. If you are seeking more detailed information or information on non-OECD countries, consult this list for an appropriate agency.

Staff Materials Time Outcome

  • Programs and Grants Departments: One Securing Enduring Metrics worksheet per metric 10 minutes per metric
  • Documentation of supporting information for each metric - so that no one is left with answers when reporting the data to you.

Integrate Impact Dimensions When Designing Impact Metrics

Metrics should be designed with a clear goal in mind. For example, if your goal is to understand the severity of COVID-19 by state, high-level metrics like “Number of cases” and “Number of deaths” don’t tell us much. 

To make more valuable comparisons about which state is doing better or worse, we can determine that it is important to see Total Deaths per Million People.

Looking at this chart it becomes clear that California, which enacted a “Shelter in Place” order earlier than other states, had a significantly lower number of deaths per million people at “48” versus New York, which has “1180” deaths/million on a given date per Worldometers. Also, even though Rhode Island has a lower number of deaths that day, the Total Deaths per Million is 226.

Diving deeper, A more relevant metric may be “Number of cases by ethnicity, economic status, and gender.” Or “Percentage of cases with a pre-existing condition or chronic disease.” Zooming in these metrics into a specific community or county could provide relevant insights on the needs of that population, rather than trying to have a “one size fits all” solution. 

Standards and frameworks play a critical role in choosing the right metrics.   Standards like IRIS have been in development for over 10+ years with the help of hundreds of impact practitioners.  

How do you build an effective impact measurement system? What is the current state of impact measurement and management?

Join us to learn from Jane Reisman and Veronica Olazabal, sharing how to integrate standards, use different frameworks for different sectors, and incorporate learnings from the data to make strategic decisions. Learn how Impact Measurement, Impact Management Project, and IRIS+ is advancing end to end impact management.


Metrics Catalog

Global and National Indicators

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN starting  2015. Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This international collaboration between 193 UN Member States and global organizations and agencies is outlined in the UN Resolution A/RES/70/1 established in September 2015.

    The SDGs are seen as a step towards international collective impact efforts, focusing and guiding the interventions of humanitarian efforts around the globe.

    We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.”
  •  United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon



Impact Investment Indicators

Impact investments are investments made in companies, organizations, and funds to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

GIIN IRIS  IRIS and IRIS + by Global Impact Investor's network. SoPact is well aligned with GIIN IRIS+ and impact partner.
Making Iris Actionable-02



Impact Investing Metrics

Impact Cloud is the most comprehensive platform that provides an out-of-box theory of change, indicators & reporting. Just select a "theory of change" or "impact management project" based IRIS+ profile unique to your need, remove indicators not relevant to your need, and add key standard and custom indicators.  You are ready to build out-of-box impact reporting for your context

  • Opportunity Zone 
  • Community Investing: Aeris
  • Healthy Communities: Build Healthy Places Network
  • Community Banking: National Community Investment Fund (NCIF)
  • Corporate Sustainability Reporting: The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
  • Water Stewardship: Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • Early-Stage Enterprises: Toniic
  • Gender Lens (Financial Inclusion): Women's World Banking
  • Financial Inclusion: CERISE and the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF)
  • Healthcare Delivery: Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI)
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Impact Employment: The Impact Sourcing Metrics Working Group
  • International Financial Institution (IFI) Private Sector Operations: IFI Working Group on Development Results Indicators Harmonization
  • Land Conservation: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Microenterprise: FIELD
  • Microinsurance: Microinsurance Network
  • Off-Grid Energy: The Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA)
  • Smallholder Agricultural Finance: Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance
  • Small and Growing Business (SGB): Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs
  • Social Performance for Microfinance: Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) and Social Performance Task Force (SPTF)
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) - Sustainable Agriculture
International Development

Monitoring and Evaluation Indicators

Included in Impact Cloud™ 

Nonprofit or Charity Indicators

  • Guidestar US-based leading organization in recent years, is focusing on the usage of standardized indicators. Their social impact indicators are applicable globally; there is a long way to go. Guidestar Social Impact Metrics Repository - GuideStar Metrics Catalog.
  • Outcome Indicators Project
    A joint project of the Urban Institute and The Center for What Works
    The Outcome Indicators Project provides a framework for tracking nonprofit performance. It suggests candidate outcomes and outcome indicators to assist nonprofit organizations that seek to develop new outcome monitoring processes or improve their existing systems.

Read More: Case Study: Scaling Up to End Poverty

International Development Indicators

Nor Include in Impact Cloud
  • Indikit - Relief and Development Indicators, DEVELOPMENT AND RELIEF
Business Reporting

Sustainability Metrics | CSR Performance Metrics

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is dedicated to sustainability reporting, transforming it from a niche practice to one now adopted by a growing majority of organizations.
"GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Standards are foundational to this success. With thousands of reporters in over 90 countries, GRI provides the world’s most widely used standards on sustainability reporting and disclosure, enabling businesses, governments, civil society, and citizens to make better decisions based on information that matters. 92% of the world’s largest 250 corporations report on their sustainability performance."

GRI recently linked its sustainability indicators to the SDG indicators in this SDG Compass. This guide allows reporting on sustainability to participate in the global dialogue around Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainability Indicators (Business Impact Metrics) Start with SDG Compass, a comprehensive indicator library that aligns with many leading standards. The thought list is long, but here are a few leading Sustainability Standards & Indicators:

Catalog Name ( Description )

Nor Include in Impact Cloud™ (Requires a separate license or use as custom metrics)

Impact Indicator Resources

Several resources are available for organizations looking to develop and implement impact metrics. Here are a few examples:

  • The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) offers a range of resources on impact measurement and management, including the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS), a catalog of metrics and indicators that organizations can use to report on their social and environmental performance. The IRIS catalog can be accessed here:
  • The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) provides industry-specific sustainability accounting standards that organizations can use to disclose material sustainability information to investors. SASB's standards can be found here:
  • The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) offers a comprehensive framework for sustainability reporting that organizations can use to disclose their economic, environmental, and social performance. The GRI framework can be accessed here:
  • The Impact Management Project (IMP) is an open-source platform that provides guidance and resources for organizations looking to develop and implement impact metrics. The IMP can be accessed here:
  • The Impact Management Program (IMP) by FSG provides a structured approach to impact management, including a methodology, assessment tools, and training. The program can be accessed here:
  • The Impact Management 101 by Bridgespan Group is a comprehensive guide that provides a step-by-step approach to developing and implementing impact metrics. It can be accessed here:

These resources can provide valuable guidance and support for organizations looking to develop and implement impact metrics to create positive social and environmental impact.


In conclusion, impact metrics play an important role in strategy development for organizations working towards social and environmental impact. Tools such as the theory of change, logic model, log frame, or results frameworks can be used to identify key outcomes and measure progress toward achieving them.

Several standards are available in nonprofit, impact investing, and sustainability/corporate social responsibility (CSR). These include measures such as the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Organizations can use these standards to benchmark their performance and communicate their impact to external stakeholders.

However, the best use of impact metrics requires a thorough understanding of the organization's core outcomes and the integration of both custom and standard metrics. This will enable the organization to communicate its impact effectively internally and externally to stakeholders. Additionally, organizations must ensure that their impact metrics are reliable, valid, and comparable to provide an accurate representation of the impact of their activities.