Impact Report: What is it and how to write it?
In this article, we will discuss some really insightful tips to keep in mind while working on your impact report. All under 17 minutes!
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But before we get into that let’s talk about what is an impact report.
Very simply defined, Impact reporting is showing the change created or the result of your intervention to your stakeholders. They could be your current donors, your own team, potential donors, media, and even your beneficiaries. You can think of it as an equivalent to a financial report for your intervention.
An ideal impact report should most importantly be transparent & accountable. Your stakeholders should be able to see both the good & the bad sides of your intervention’s results if any.
You should hold full accountability for your intervention & the results achieved with it. The impact report should reassure your stakeholders & help you build trust with them.
What is impact measurement?
Now, how can you get close to writing your ideal report? Here are a few tips!
- First and foremost, a good impact report needs a good impact measurement framework. This framework needs to be designed and agreed upon before you even start executing your intervention. This step is really important because it will enable you to decide your metrics and indicators that you will be adding into your impact reporting later on, & also to decide how you are going to collect this data? If you want a thorough impact report, you need to collect relevant data at all stages of your intervention and the data you show can’t be an afterthought. You have to plan and think about your impact report from the planning stage of your project.
- Secondly, involve your stakeholders in it, and by stakeholders, I mean every single person who is a part of your project or intervention or is getting affected by it. Your team members are going to help you execute your intervention, your volunteers, your beneficiaries. If you are working in collaboration with some other third-party agency like the government then, them. Most importantly, your donors & people who have invested in your intervention. Talk to them from the beginning, try to understand what is important for them, what would they like to see in your impact report, what would give them reassurance & help build trust.
- Your impact report should at least cover the following aspects:
- The Why? It should include your need analysis. Why is there a need for this intervention in the first place? What problem are you trying to solve? Starting your report with this should set a solid base for your impact report.
- Who? Who are the stakeholders involved in it and who are you trying to benefit? You clearly need to define all your beneficiaries’ characteristics: Where do they live, what are their lives usually like, what problems do they have, and so on. Your aim should be to bring your beneficiaries alive on paper. Anyone reading your report should be able to picture your beneficiaries in their head and feel a connection to them.
- What? What activities did you do as a part of your intervention to bring about the desired change. This will really help you show the effectiveness of your strategy.
- When? – What was the time period when your project ran and for how long. You can also go the extra mile and add how many man-hours were spent during the overall project.
- Now, the most important part, the result. What did you actually achieve by executing your intervention? This should really be the juiciest and thought-out section of your report. This is where transparency is the most important element. An important part of this would be also adding information about your risk analysis. This is important information for any stakeholder to know, especially when it comes to decision making.
- Lastly, key learnings. After everything is done and said, what have you learned from it? What could you have done differently, what could you do to improve the intervention. This stage will require you and your team to self-reflect and be very honest. It would be important for you as a person who is writing this report to talk to every person involved in the project and take their feedback into account and make sure it is reflected in this document.
- Another element, which can give an extra edge to your report is to include a section where you can analyze if the changes seen are actually a result of your intervention or other factors played a role as well. This is commonly known as ‘Attribution’ in Impact measurement. This ties to the 5 dimensions of the impact that the Impact management project talks about. For example, if your goal was to decrease the number of infants suffering from nutritional deficiency by educating the mothers about proper meal requirements for infants, then it would be important for you to evaluate that could some other factors have played a role in increasing this education level? Maybe at the same time, the government agency was doing a TV campaign talking about the same thing. So this helps you evaluate the real impact your intervention created. Another thing to keep in mind is the concept of deadweight, which means whether the change that you desire would have happened with or without your intervention. For example, if you were trying to uplift a community economically and during the same time period, the national economy grew tremendously. So you will have to evaluate if the change is because of the macro-level change that happened or your efforts.
- A good impact report is not just about numbers. It is equally important to add in your qualitative data. Stories from beneficiaries, the experience of your team members. These stories or testimonials can help you humanize your report. Also, build a strong bond between different stakeholders. Most of the time, we are in the field where we need to touch people’s hearts to make them want to donate or volunteer, and these stories can help you strike that chord.
- Transparency. We can never stress enough the importance of this point in today’s world. No matter what size of the organization or what type of organization, there is a need to be transparent. In the context of your impact report, it could mean that openly talking about any negative unintended impact that your intervention might have created. Sometimes it can be very simple things. For example, an organization that used to carry out health awareness sessions in a public park would distribute food refreshments to their attendees. The attendees would often leave the wrappers or packs of the food and drinks in the ground. Adding to the problem of littering & plastic dumping. It’s difficult to accept it, but it is, unfortunately, a negative impact created as a result of an intervention. But it’s important to acknowledge it if you really want to understand the TRUE impact of your activities. There are many different layers of transparency that you should take into consideration, for example, cash flow transparency, limitations of your project & so on.
- The next suggestion from our side would be to keep it simple & clear. Use language, which is easy to understand, don’t make it too wordy, structure it in a way that people find easy to peruse. As the old adage that says, “a picture is worth a thousand words” still holds true. Even in this regard. So try to make your report come alive using graphs or pictures. Proofread it more than once to make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Get someone else to edit it, if need be. This can really help you make a good impression on your current and potential donors.
- Lastly, connect your impact metrics or indicators to globally accepted & recognized goals like Sustainable Development Goals or IRIS+. This can help you go from micro to macro. Meaning, that even if your intervention was planned at a small level of one community, connecting it to the SDGs can help you show the impact you are creating at the national and international levels.
These are our 8 suggestions to help you write a strong and powerful impact report.
3 key learnings
- Start thinking about impact reporting from Day 1 of planning your intervention. It’s not something that you should think about only when the project is over and donors or other stakeholders ask you for it. Click To Tweet
- Stay objective & don’t overclaim. Most likely your project/intervention is going to be like your baby. As someone who is so closely attached to something, it gets difficult to stay objective & see the clear picture. But it is very important to do so because you really have the responsibility for all your stakeholders. Your data should be verifiable to maintain your credibility.
- Involve others. You don’t have to do it alone, you need to involve more people in this, get more eyes to look at it. People that you trust and who can give you constructive feedback to make it better.
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