All Things Impact

Thoughts and musings on charities, impact management and technology

Last Wednesday I spent the day at the NPC Ignites conference in London. The event brought together a range of voices from the charity sector, and it was great to be part of the discussion about some of the challenges facing the sector and how they can be overcome. From my perspective it was reassuring to hear that many of the things we champion at Impact Box - effective use of technology to drive efficiency, a focus on meaningful data and insight, building technical capacity within the sector - were being spoken of as solutions. For me a few key themes emerged.

Salesforce is a popular option for charities who are considering investing in a CRM, and because of this it is one of the platforms we work with on a day-to-day basis at Impact Box. Over the six years I have worked with Salesforce in the charity sector I have seen it go through many changes. Salesforce is constantly evolving, bringing new features every four months that charity users can take advantage of.

The Spring ‘18 release is on its way in February and I have had the pleasure of reading through the 400+ page release notes (okay, I admit, it was a skim read) to pull together this summary of what I think are the most interesting new features coming to Salesforce.

With the festive period now truly upon us, I have recently found myself attending a host of different seasonal events and catch-ups, both professional and social, which have seen me having to repeatedly answer the unavoidable question, “what do I ‘do’”? Having worked in the charity sector for the past few years, I suppose it’s no surprise that many of those listening to my somewhat faltering answer have some connection themselves to the third sector, too. And this has led to some interesting observations. “Oh, we need to improve our systems,” is a phrase that has become strangely familiar in response to my explanation, and this struck a chord with me in terms of what it suggests about the way in which organisations often approach the idea of database development.

I am new to the Impact Box team having started at the beginning of November, but I’m happy to say that I already feel part of the family. Most recently I was working for a national social integration charity called The Challenge and I knew that leaving somewhere with such an incredible work culture would be difficult.

How many times have you heard a funder or charity talk about the need to demonstrate impact? It’s one of those stock phrases that rolls off the tongue in any conversation about evaluation. I’ll confess up front to having dropped the DI-bomb on a number of occasions. However, the more time I’ve spent grappling with questions around measuring impact the more I’ve become convinced that the concept of demonstrating impact is deeply unhelpful.

Lots of the organisations we work with want to develop the ways in which they can visualise the data they collect. As a result we spend a fair amount of time building dashboards for both management and frontline staff. On the surface dashboards are simple things: they are data visualisation tools that display the key metrics that you are striving to influence in your work. However, many charities find the process of designing and implementing dashboards to be anything but simple. Here are our top tips for getting it right.

For charities, impact matters. It’s what gets those who work in the third-sector out of bed in the morning. It’s also what prompts individuals, grant-giving trusts and government to part with the cash that keeps the sector going. Many organisations are now realising that, although occasional large-scale evaluation can tell you how much impact you are having it’s a pretty blunt instrument for understanding your programme’s strengths and weaknesses and driving impact on a day-to-day basis. This is where real-time impact management comes in: data on how things are going on a daily basis empowers staff to make better decisions and drive up the impact of the organisation.