Helpful Examples

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Finally, a word about reporting on your impact, once you know what it is. You may be able to arrange site visits, open houses and other kinds of front-line experiences for your key funders. For those individuals, personal experiences are always the most intimate and powerful.

But most charities will not find it feasible to create such experiences for all their supporters. That’s why we’re closing this issue of Mackenzie Strategic Philanthropy with three examples of impact reporting to inspire your own communications.

Effective video

Unity Charity teaches youth to express and transcend their stress through arts-based leadership programs (breakdance, spoken word performance, beatbox and graffiti art). A rotating slide show on their home page leads to a video called “How Unity Impacts Communities Across Canada”.

The video succeeds through showing more than telling. It includes a testimonial from a school board trustee and community leader, and personal testimony from participants. But the real power lies in scenes of excited, engaged youth working with and performing for their peers.

Near the end, we see a Unity vocalist and beatboxer improvising joyously with … his middle-aged high school principal playing an accordion. The mutual respect, acceptance and creativity between two individuals speaks vividly of Unity Charity’s impact.

Multi-year comparison

Inner City Renovation (ICR) is a Winnipeg general contractor and social enterprise with a mission to provide quality employment for inner-city low-income residents and quality general contracting services in Winnipeg. ICR published a Social Return on Investment (SR OI) report card. Including seven years’ worth of reviews in the same document (2003 through 2009) allows an analytical reader to see both short-term outcomes and long-term impact, since the organization was founded in 2002.

Unfortunately though, the report describes both short and long-term accomplishments as “outcomes,” which masks the difference between outcomes and impact. The 2003 report contains outcomes like these:

– Most employees use bank accounts rather than cheque cashing services
– Only 5% of staff continue to use food banks and frequency has dropped

By 2009, ICR was able to report some longer-lasting change:

– Employees have indicated that they feel they are getting along better with others as a result of their employment with ICR
– Target employees continue to enjoy their work at ICR and most view ICR as a good career opportunity
– Long-term employees noted an improvement in their technical skills

Define, demand, describe

Finally, the Ashoka Canada impact study addresses the challenge directly, asking, “How do you know when you’ve revolutionized an industry?” Their answer is found in a careful description of the five kinds of impact they want their Fellows to make over five to ten years, as well as clear criteria for what that impact looks like.

Fellows seeking to change “market dynamics and value chains,” for instance, are expected to:

– Increase access to goods and services
– Create new markets
– Create value where a value didn’t exist
– Generate income for the poor
– Change the flow of market information

Both charities and funders still have much to learn about the tools and timeline of impact measurement, and especially about the patience required for impact to become discernible. But through innovative (though limited) funding, collaboration, information sharing and commitment, Canada’s best charities, donors and grantmakers are definitely engaging the new expectation of impact.