The Definition of Impact
Recently I was asked how we define “impact” at UpMetrics and what is required to be able to measure impact. Initially I was struck at the seemingly obvious question – we use the word “impact” so often when evaluating success that it seemed crazy that philanthropy wouldn’t have a singular definition that is utilized by all. But I loved the idea that this person didn’t make the assumption that we all thought of impact in the same way, because after thinking about it I realized that UpMetrics does define impact in a slightly different way than would be expected and it directly relates to why the company was started in the first place.
To start, impact can be defined as “social change”. It cannot be limited to “positive social change” because often our actions drive unintended or unexpected change and that is still having an impact. At UpMetrics, we define impact as measurable social change. If you can’t quantify the change you’re driving, you can’t understand the significance of positive or negative impact, and adjust your resources accordingly based on what will best support the social change you want to make as part of your mission.
Being able to measure change also connects your organization to the quantitative and qualitative data that power stories that inspire action. Numbers can provide context to the significance of the change you are driving, and sentiments from the community experiencing impact can further enhance the perceived value of change.
To effectively measure impact truly begins with non-technical items: an acceptance that impact needs to be measured, a culture that prioritizes data-driven decision making, defined KPIs for each program and a method to collect data, which can be with paper and a pen. The differentiator from those who simply measure impact to those who maximize impact is the ability to collect data in real-time and baseline reality vs expected. This connects your organization to the ability to optimize your efforts and track progress towards established goals that show that you are on track to succeeding in driving change in the area(s) you've identified.
You're measuring impact in a multifaceted way that provides context - what's working, what's not, what's blocking you from hitting goals, where can you optimize efforts. The only way to truly measure impact is to take all data points across activities and from multiple sources into consideration, both during the program, after the program concludes when evaluating overall success, and in the future when planning your next move.
At a minimum, to measure impact your organization needs to establish a system to collect data and track progress toward identified key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals. Remember that data will be collected from various sources so try to make it as easy as possible for various stakeholders to track and submit that information. To truly maximize impact you will need a resource that supports this functionality and also provides the opportunity for you to collect and quantify qualitative data and layer in other information sources like public data.
How will you be approaching impact moving forward with this definition in mind?
Learn more about how UpMetrics was started to support impact organization’s ability to collect, analyze and share measurable change in a compelling way that inspires action. Contact us today!