Tips and resources for community-based organisations


Why is impact important?

Charitable organisations are under increasing scrutiny from the public and funding bodies to demonstrate their impact and be accountable for their activities. Measuring and reporting on impact allows charities to better articulate the difference they are making to their beneficiaries and provides an evidence-base to help external stakeholders engage with and understand their work.

Good impact practice also supports staff and trustees in being more results-driven and allows for more effective strategic planning when working towards their vision. Understanding the impact of an activity/project highlights what your organisation is doing well and what it can improve upon. This allows for more effective allocation of limited resources in future activities. Therefore good impact practice fosters an organisational culture which supports constant evaluation and improvement, inspiring staff and trustees to work towards maximising their impact.

What is impact?

When thinking about impact, one of the important things to consider is what impact actually means. The terms outputs, outcomes and impacts are often used interchangeably, but they actually mean slightly different things. It is important to keep these definitions in mind when planning, measuring and reporting on impact.

Impact measurement methods and tools

It is never too early to start thinking about impact… Here at the Trust we are dedicated to improving impact practice, and therefore we will consider providing extra funding as part of a grant to help support organisations measure and report on impact.

We understand that the activities and projects supported by the Trust are very broad-ranging and thus it’s an impossible job to prescribe how organisations should report impact. Nesta has developed a Standards of Evidence Framework which may be useful as a starting point for organisations to think about the capability of their impact measurement and how they can generate evidence of impact that is appropriate for their organisation.

Once you have decided the types of evidence your organisation can collect, you can check out some of the various tools and methods by clicking on the box on the right – there are lots of other methods, but these are a starting point to give you some ideas. Also, this guide by Performance Hub is a useful starting point for starting to think about how you identify and use ‘indicators’ that assess the activities of your organisation and hence its impact. This guide by What Works Wellbeing gives specific advice on how to measure your organisation’s impact, specifically on well being, by offering guidance on how to build a useful question set and on how you can analyse your results in a meaningful way.

Resilience, sustainability and full cost recovery

In order to maximise the impact that your organisation can make it is essential that you have a plan in place for building its resilience and sustainability. This is particularly important for charitable organisations as they often face unpredictable external environments and need to be able to adapt to a changing social, political and economic backdrop, so that they can secure funding streams and continue delivering services to beneficiaries. These top ten tips by The Kings Fund provide some guidance to charity leaders about how they can build resilience and sustainability, and provide a useful starting point for supporting and developing successful leadership in the charity sector.

A challenge for many charities is to recover the full cost of the services they deliver. Many draw a distinction between what they call core costs and project costs. However, by core, they’re often referring to the costs of delivering a core service, rather than the overhead, or fixed running costs, of their charity. So, if they’re applying for a project grant, they apply only for the direct costs involved in delivering it and don’t request full cost recovery (this includes an allowance for the overheads of running the organisation), so they won’t receive a contribution to their ongoing running costs.

Funders can be equally guilty of saying they “won’t fund core costs” when what they mean is that they are not in a position to make ongoing donations for unrestricted purposes to an organisation but WILL support specific projects to pilot a service or scale up activities, for example, and recognise that there are overheads involved in doing so.

If this sounds confusing, read on.  If not, congratulations, you’ve obviously been knee-deep in an Excel spreadsheet at some point or taken the course in accountant-speak…

Calculating full cost recovery

Insights from the Cass Business School Charity Learning Series

With the tough operating environment charities find themselves in, how can they become more sustainable, have greater impact for beneficiaries, and manage the huge demand that exists for their services?

Barclays and Cass Business School Centre for Charity Effectiveness (Cass CCE) wanted to foster deeper, more insightful conversations around the key issues facing the sector. They wanted to really explore the issues in order to provide useful lessons for the future.

This led to the Charity Learning Series, set around six working lunch events across the UK. These conversations examined key topics that senior leaders in the charities sector identified as important to them through a poll at Barclays National Charities Day. Facilitated by industry experts with a passion for their own particular subject areas, these events allowed participants to really debate the key issues for the sector, with time to think and have nuanced conversations. This report is a result of those conversations on the six key topics identified:

  • sustainability,
  • efficiency,
  • collaboration,
  • risk appetite,
  • reserves,
  • innovation and scalability.

Download the full report here.  Each of the key topics is examined in turn and finishes with some key questions for charity leaders and trustees to ask themselves.

Useful reports

Commissioner perspectives on working with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (Feb, 2018)

The NHS five year forward view outlines a commitment to developing stronger partnerships with VCSE organisations as part of a ‘new relationship with patients and communities’, in many areas commissioners are not prioritising these relationships. Ever wondered what the commissioner’s perspective is on your services? Check out this report, commissioned by the Department of Health from the King’s Fund for some useful insights.

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