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Measure twice, cut once: Why social impact measurement is an essential skill

Grantmakers are in prime position to steer their masters towards best practice when it comes to impact and outcomes measurement, an Australian expert says.

Australian Social Value Bank (ASVB) impact specialist Andrew Callaghan has analysed new Australian government strategies for "commissioning for outcomes" and says grantmakers should be ready to lead when it comes to understanding impact and achieving measurable results.

After a decade in the rapidly developing field, Mr Callaghan continues to be surprised by the government and corporate sectors' lack of strategic leadership and general lack of understanding about the work, even as more governments are adopting impact measurement as an essential part of funding.

It's a worrying observation, and it comes as Our Community's executive officer and "chaos controller", Kathy Richardson, pegs outcomes-oriented grantmaking as the biggest single shift in the sector in recent times.

Mr Callaghan says funders can stay in front of their problems by formalising a social measurement process early with this quick checklist:

Andrew Callaghan Impact specialist Andrew Callaghan
  • What is the procedure for communicating to the people you're giving grants to?
  • What is the support mechanism to ensure recipients are able to collect the data needed?
  • What is the process for auditing the data to ensure it is sound?

Don't waste your time, collect the right information

"I've worked on evaluations of large-scale government programs and grant-giving programs in Australia and New Zealand, and I've seen that lack of clarity and consistency in what we're asking for leads to a diverse range of types of reports," Mr Callaghan says.

"There's a lot of wasteful information collected - and time wasted - that could have been spent running the programs that were given the grants, if the grantmakers were clear about the information they wanted people to collect in the first place.

"This includes being clear on the kind of outcomes you're looking to achieve from those grants and having a simple and cost-effective way of being able to give provide that evidence."

Too often, he says, evaluations are conducted after the money has been spent, putting grantmakers under pressure to justify spending with low-quality assessments.

"In some cases, I wouldn't say organisations are making it up … but not far off it."

This is where grantmakers can step in and step up.

This is a shortened version of a full report from Grants Management Intelligence. To access the full version click here (members only)


Andrew's tips: Five ways grantmakers can improve their social impact process

Methods and tools: Social Impact Assessment Strategy Report (HEC Paris)

OECD Report: Social Impact Investment 2019

Vital Signs: A reporting framework for community foundations (GMI, November 2017)

Social measurement special report: How do you measure up? (GMI, April 2018)

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