We’re looking for ways to help charities with impact reporting

Published on
February 27, 2020
in
Updates
Matt Webb
Help us track down the best existing research into impact reporting in the charity sector.
Measuring tapes

We’re taking a look at impact reporting, and we’d like your help.

First, what kind of reporting do we mean, and why are we looking at it?

Impact reporting is how funders and charities can get a view on the real-life stories around their work, and its effectiveness

Impact reporting includes both grant management and social impact reporting, and it is often required from charities as a condition of funding so that funders know that charities are meeting their own objectives. Sometimes reporting means face-to-face conversations every few months. Sometimes it involves filling in lengthy Word documents (and this can be helpful in its own way!).

But reporting isn’t in place just for the benefit of funders. If you’re required to do reporting, that means you first have to do monitor closely what’s going on, and that process can help charities themselves know what’s working and what can be improved. The conversations that result from reporting, too, can reveal extra ways that a funder can lend a hand.

But for all the benefits, reporting can be a pain. Research shows that it’s regularly time-consuming, especially when there are multiple funders with varied requirements. And, worse, occasionally it can be hard to see why some particular information has been requested at all.

In our free digital and design workshops for charities, we frequently hear that this “required reporting” feels like a time-consuming fact of life.

The folks over at Makerble saw this too. From their story:

… it became clear that the problem of providing regular updates was widespread across the entire charity industry. The average charity was managing grants from 15 different funders whom they needed to provide bespoke detailed reports to and most charities were drowning under the paperwork and admin.

In short: for all the value in reporting, there are pain points too.

So we’d like to better understand the process of impact reporting…

Because we care about repeated challenges in our sector where shared approaches, infrastructure, or tools can make significant contributions to the ways charities achieve their objectives. And perhaps there’s an opportunity to get involved here — whether that’s joining in with another effort, or bringing an additional perspective.

In particular, we’re interested in the experiences of charities in the “required reporting” between them and funders, and we’re embarking on a short research project to learn more.

There’s a lot of great work, thinking, and research already in this space. That’s where we’re starting, and we’d love your help to find it.

For example, some existing work:

  • By way of IVAR (the Institute for Voluntary Action Research), a group of funders and charities have been working to understand Impact Reporting and the processes around it — and also to create a set of principles to make reporting simpler and more valuable for all concerned. New principles for grant reporting (December, 2018) is the major publication from that work, and it’s a wonderful aid to our understanding.
  • In Turning the tables in England, “Putting English charities in control of reporting,” (September, 2008) the report authors, NPC, look at the benefits and costs of reporting for charities, and put forward both concrete and guiding principles. (This report was preceded by the Scottish version in May 2008, but the English version is linked here as it includes additional recommendations.)

But we know there’s more.

If you’re aware of research or work around impact reporting, in particular “required reporting” and the experience of charities, please send it our way!

I’m Matt, and I’m leading on this short piece of work. You can reach me directly by email at matt.webb@wearecast.org.uk.

We’ll make a reading list of the research we collect and post it on this blog, probably in mid March.

(After getting up to speed with existing research, to deepen our understanding we’re planning to speak with people whose work involves “required reporting.” If you’re in the UK and would be willing to have a conversation, please do email. We’ll be putting out another call, and reaching out to various contacts directly, before arranging those meetings.)

Thank you!

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