How to measure charity performance and impact

How to measure charity performance and impact

Measuring the performance of your charity has become an integral part of operations over the last few years.

Funding providers and local commissioners increasingly want to see real-life examples of what your charity has achieved with previous projects to ensure they are getting value for money. But with so many initiatives producing seemingly intangible results, how do you present hard-and-fast figures that prove your charity is making a difference?

Objective setting and evaluation

The overriding principle when setting objectives for your charity is to use a SMART framework - specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. This gives your organisation direction and ensures that the goals are realistic.

Measuring and evaluating objectives can be more difficult. There are several different frameworks, however most incorporate the following four elements:


This is the resource your charity has put into a project/activity. It can include financial costs, such as wages and promotional items, as well as opportunity costs, such as volunteer time.


The services provided by your charity. For example, this may be a training course or education programme.


The benefit(s) enjoyed by your charity's service users. For a charity running training programmes, this would be the qualifications and skills gained by your service users. When illustrating outcomes, it's important not to confuse these with outputs; focus on the result of the activity rather than the activity itself.


The wider, long terms benefits as a result of the activity. These can be wide ranging but should be relevant; for a training group, this could be a reduction in unemployment in a geographical area.

Reporting service user development and 'distance travelled'

Measuring service user development varies hugely depending on the nature of your charity. However, the concept of 'distance travelled' – the measure of how much a service user has developed as a result of the charity's work – can provide you with statistics that illustrate the effectiveness of your charity's work.

The key to measuring distance travelled is to ask service users to complete a questionnaire the first time you engage with them, and again when they are no longer reliant on the charity's help. For a charity running training courses, the following would be good measurements:

  • Course/programme attendance levels
  • The number of short-term work placements completed
  • The number of interviews or employment opportunities
  • Industry specific proficiencies/skills
  • On a scale of one to five, where the user would rate their self-esteem/work motivation/confidence

There are also high level metrics for charity awareness that you may want to include alongside specific measurements, such as the number of website visits, newsletter subscriptions, social media mentions and press coverage.

Measuring effectiveness and return on investment of fundraising events

Measuring the effectiveness of fundraising events is a vital part of improving your charity's money-raising efforts. Consider using the following metrics to illustrate an improvement over a period of time.

  • Total amount raised
  • Average donation (total amount raised / number of donors)
  • Visitor numbers
  • On a scale of one to five, how much visitors enjoyed the event
  • Online/press exposure generated as a result of the event
  • When to analyse your charity's performance

For most charities there is no one time when analysis should take place; unless your service users come in cycles, they are likely to be at different stages in their development and the 'distance travelled' methodology will provide a steady stream of measurements all year round. However, certain seasonal events (such as a summer fete) can be reviewed in the subsequent weeks, as can financial strength at the end of a fiscal year.

This combination of ongoing and annual analysis will give you a wide-ranging collection of statistics that will clearly illustrate your charity's performance and impact.


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