Tracking Social Impact: What are the Details?
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organization, nonprofit, telling a story, storytelling

This is the second article in our series, The Step by Step Guide to Tracking Social Impact

Now that you have clarified what your work is, how it is completed and why it is important, it’s time to begin organizing your information by outlining the specifics of your work. Storytelling will be important to tracking social impact, because personal stories buttress abstract performance indicators.

Think of your mission statement as a theorem – a hypothesis of the change in the world that you believe you can achieve. Before proven, a theorem is just words; a theory made up of assumptions requiring validation. How do you prove a theorem? Start broad and become more specific with each step of analysis.

1. Types of Projects

What types of projects are you working on? Housing? Education? These are the broadest elements and are given, meaning that the statements themselves do not require proof. What needs to be proven is the work done within each division and the impact being made on people’s lives.

2. Who works on each particular project? 

a. Volunteers:

  • How many volunteers are working on the project?
  • What backgrounds do they come from? (i.e. is the project international or mainly local?)
  • Do volunteers return often? This is important because a rate of return validates your project’s work. If volunteers, as people who have actually worked with you towards your mission for free, return often then they believe what you do is actually making a difference in people’s lives. This is great validation of the work you’re performing. 
  • Document what tasks volunteers are performing. This offers insight into the division of labor on projects and increases the transparency of where donor support is being put to work. 

b. Project Leader/Staff:

  • Let’s be honest, most people working at nonprofit organizations aren’t in it for the fame or money. They work on projects because they are passionate about making a difference in the world and believe in the work and methodology of the organization. Documenting and tracking staff’s achievements at the organization, as well as their past work or where they have gone since working at your organization is imperative to proving a distinct commitment to social impact. Much like a good university, organizations engaging in legitimate, long-lasting, meaningful social impact are prestigious to work for.

 3. Who is the project helping? (What is the project’s main objective?)

  • Is the specific project assisting a community, family, or individual?   For the sake of focus in this article, let’s leave standard development metrics aside. Record an oral history, utilize photography, interview community members about the project, or write a short introduction about the people who are people helped.This gives volunteers and potential donors a window into the the importance of your work as it is personally affecting individual lives.

4. What are the tenets of the project? What is the plan or timeline? Give people an option or ball park time of when to check back with the project’s progress.

5. What is the project’s main goal or purpose? How is the project improving lives? This goes with the “who is the project helping” portion, but it is important to be clear about the project’s overall impact and the way in which it works toward your overarching goal within a sector of work.

If possible, always document the before and after of a project. Whether that is with a photo or with a short story, ensure the results of your work are clear to your audience. This pertains both to the broader sectors you focus on (i.e. education, housing, health), as well as to each specific project. Everytime you complete a project within a broader sector, it should be added to your outward facing communications documentation.

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Related Posts
Tracking Social Impact: Identify Concrete Quantifiers ( 3 Jul,2013 )
Storytelling for Nonprofits: Data Writes a Story ( 13 May,2013 )
5 Lessons of the 2013 Millennial Impact Report for Nonprofits ( 25 Jul,2013 )

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