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What are you really doing?

makeadifferenceIt’s important for your organisation to have a vision and mission to guide you through the years if you use them effectively and refer to them often. A mission can explain to your supporters, and prospective supporters, what you aim to achieve and what difference you hope to make in the community.

Now, I know my next statement is quite bold but try to stay with me…

Non-profit organisations need to talk about more than just what they do.

Yep, that’s right, talking about what you’re doing to change the world is not enough. Let me explain why. Sometimes charities get so focused on talking about what they are doing that they forget to actually ensure what they’re doing makes a difference. In real terms. Just because your organisation is providing the services or undertaking the activities it is meant to that doesn’t mean it’s enough. Activity doesn’t necessarily equal results. Your charity needs to measure what it is doing is achieving suitable outcomes.

Last week I was in New Zealand at a conference for community groups and one workshop reminded me of this. It was presented by a fabulous lady, Diana Beattie from Evaluating Success, and was all about frameworks for evaluating programs. Evaluation helps us to identify what is the quality, value and importance of something; and to distinguish the difference between ‘what?’ and ‘so what?’. And, evaluation for your charity is vital. Vital for demonstrating to potential funders that you are successful. Vital for knowing what changes you need to make to improve your work. Vital for ensuring you are actually making the changes in the world that you should be.

The Theory of Change (ToC) model is one relatively simple way of evaluating the work you are doing and while we touched on it in the workshop, I thought it would be beneficial to explore a bit more here because evaluation is sometimes an area forgotten about by smaller charities – often because they believe it’s too hard or too expensive to undertake.

According to the ‘Evaluation Exchange’, at the Harvard School of Education, ToC is the product of a series of critical-thinking exercises that provides a comprehensive picture of the early- and intermediate-term changes in a given community that are needed to reach a long-term goal. This video by Social Investment Business helps explain the ToC in a simplified manner.

As described by the Social Investment Business, the ToC “forms the backbone of any social impact measurement system. It links the day to day activities in your organisation to your overall mission or long term goals. This is a key step in deciding what you will need to measure to evidence your social impact“.

For more detail about ToC model and how it can help your organisation, you can also refer to the Theory of Change organisation itself here.

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Hopefully, this post has provided you with a little insight into a model that you can perhaps use to investigate the social impact of your organisation. Or, if nothing else, has provided some food for thought as to how you can start to do this in some way in your charity. As we’ve said before, activity doesn’t necessarily equal results – you need to be sure that what you are is having the desired outcomes. It might seem like a big challenge, but start small. Just choose one of your projects or services first, and go from there. Good luck!

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

P.S If you’d like to read more about a practical example of ToC, Oxfam have a fabulous post on their website about it here.

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