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How to approach impact management in 2021

March 23, 2021By

Measuring and managing impact is not a new concept for nonprofits—no doubt, you’ve been doing it for years. However, we’re currently approaching an inflection point where, together, we can commit to leading with impact and holding ourselves to a higher standard of accountability to drive trust across the entire community.

This means a cultural shift toward stronger impact management and a greater focus on data. We need to advocate for the use of information that allows us to more rapidly adapt today’s programs to improve tomorrow’s impact.

Data is the evidence that you’re having an impact. I’d argue it’s “the right data” is the evidence that you are having an impact.

What is impact?

The best explanation of this I’ve heard is from’s Andrew Means. He explained it through the metaphor of a running coach:

Imagine you’re a running coach, working with a handful of new athletes. You’ve coached them all season, getting them ready for their first race. Race day is here and all your athletes are standing on the starting line. Is this your impact? The total number of your athletes that start the race? Or do we wait to the end of the race and count the number of athletes that cross the finish line? Is this your impact? Or is your impact best measured by counting the athletes who finished who wouldn’t have otherwise without your guidance? Impact is not the number of people that ran, or the number of people that finished, but instead, it’s the number of athletes that only got across the finish line due to the guidance of the coach.

Doesn’t this make the idea of impact so much more tangible and at the same time, harder to reach? It’s so much easier to measure who ran and if they finished the race. But neither of those metrics tell the full story of the coach’s impact.

How to better manage impact

Impact management is a set of practices and capabilities that support adapting programs we are offering today to improve tomorrow’s impact. It’s about learning from what we’ve done in the past. It’s predicated on the belief that we should manage impact just as deliberately and strategically as we do other organizational resources and assets.

So, how can we better manage our data to improve impact measurement?

Watch the Recording: Leading With Impact

WATCH: Hear from industry peers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of AmericaBig Brothers Big Sisters of AmericaSusan G. Komen and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as experts from Watt Hamlett ConsultingClassyJackson and A Line Strategy.

It starts with better data

Whether you’re working within a CRM platform, or still relying on spreadsheets and surveys, you have no doubt encountered a myriad of issues are data accuracy including:

  • Duplicated data: You have multiple records of the same person
  • Data gaps: You’re missing data because forms or surveys have been incorrectly filled in or not completed at all
  • Data accuracy: You’re noticing some pieces of your data just don’t make sense
  • Representativeness: You notice your forms are only being filled in by a small percentage of your contacts, and it’s always the same demographic
  • A focus on what is measurable: At times, a focus on what is measurable can result in missing the story of impact.

Some of these sound familiar? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Here are some tips to shift toward stronger impact management and a greater focus on data.

Test your data intake

Take your forms and surveys for a test drive. Ask staff and key representatives of your target audiences to review the format, length and questions you want to ask. This is a great way to check the user experience and troubleshoot any issues before launching the form or survey.

Creating target audiences

Target audience profiles provide a structured look at how your programs and services can meet the needs of your constituents. It allows you to send targeted communications, content and surveys with messaging that will resonate with your constituents, leading to more accurate and representative data.

Journey mapping

In the simplest terms, a journey map is a diagram of the touchpoints a constituent has with your organization. The map helps you understand how your donors, volunteers, staff and community interact with your organization in every part of the constituent journey. It puts you in your constituent’s shoes to learn how you might improve interactions and collect better data. Check out these great Journey Mapping resources from Salesforce.

Visualizing your data

Looking for data that makes an impact? Remember: presentation is key. Consider building dynamic dashboards and reports that highlight key impact metrics. They should be concise, shareable and built with an audience in mind. Looking to set up your own dynamic dashboards for impact measurement on Salesforce? Check out their webinar here.

  • Continued learning: If you’re already up and running on Salesforce and are looking to learn more about impact measurement, check out this great Trailhead that covers Theory of Change, data modelling, reporting, and Einstein Analytics.

How to measure impact with Salesforce

If you’re looking to improve impact measurement in 2021, get in touch with a member of our dedicated nonprofit team. With hundreds of successful nonprofit projects under our belt, we can help you more effectively wield data to showcase your organization’s impact.

Continue the learning

Check out the recordings from our recent Leading With Impact virtual event!

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