The impact that the Covid-19 crisis will have upon charities has been much discussed - from its effect upon fundraising and, in some cases statutory income, to finding new ways of operating. But how are charities responding to the need to demonstrate their own impact? 

The priorities of both donors and funders may have changed. How can charities capture their attention, and demonstrate that they are meeting their needs, while maintaining a focus on their charitable objectives and mission?

Research carried out by our Research team states that two in five charities have found innovative ways of delivering services, and there has been a clear pivot to refocusing activities and interacting with beneficiaries in a new way.

It is vitally important that charities are able to identify and communicate the need they meet and the impact that they have. 

“Impact measurement helps charities make a greater difference for the people and causes they support. Collecting the right data and developing a learning culture make you more resilient in times of crisis, as well as helping to motivate staff and volunteers, and explain to funders where the challenges lie," says James Noble, Acting Associate Director, Data and Learning, New Philanthropy Capital

Much has been written over the last few years about impact measurement and organisations are getting better at understanding and capturing the value of their work.

However, many charities only share this information with funders. It can also be used internally to report against objectives and outcomes, and drive performance to meet the needs of beneficiaries.

And it should be reported in the annual report. Websites may be the first point of contact and the obvious shop front but donors and funders will also look at annual reports, often before contacting a charity directly.

When CAF is asked by potential donors to research and shortlist charities that fit their criteria, the annual report gives an important insight into the mindset of the board. Not using them to shout about the need for your services and the amazing difference you make is a real missed opportunity. Consider the benefits of stories and numbers. Real life examples can be more powerful than data.

Good impact reporting helps all stakeholders - beneficiaries, volunteers, donors, funders and other supporters - to understand and engage with an organisation. It also helps staff and trustees to focus on results and work to achieve their vision

An organisation that is able to explain what it has achieved will have a stronger foundation to managing itself, so as to achieve an even greater possible impact.

Example #1 - Healthworkers’ Support Foundation

Healthworkers’ Support Foundation (HSF) is a new charity set up to support the physical and mental health of healthcare workers and their families during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

Feed the Frontline is its wellbeing initiative delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to workers at various NHS trusts, to sustain and nourish them as they work longer hours under increased pressure.

It has in total raised c£450,000 to maintain deliveries, and it has assembled a powerful collection of case studies and testimonials on its website to demonstrate its impact.

Example #2 - Little Princess Trust (LPT)

LPT makes beautiful, real-hair wigs from hair donations, generously sent in by supporters. It is often accompanied by fundraising money, which enables the charity to cover the costs of the wig provision and to also invest in childhood cancer research projects.

As a result of Covid-19, the difficult decision to stop accepting hair donations was made, based on the fact that no staff members would be in the office to process and log the hair donations. It also felt that it would be the right thing to do in light of the potential additional pressures being placed on the mail service.

Pre-lockdown, social media feeds, and inboxes would be bursting with images of supporters, proudly holding hair donations and promoting their fundraising, before sending them off. Without this content, LPT had to devise a strategy that would keep supporters engaged and connected with the charity.

It came up with the #LetItGrow campaign. With hairdressers and barbers closed across the country, lockdown presented a great opportunity for supporters to #LetItGrow for LPT, and to donate even longer hair (which LPT really needed, as longer hair donations make its most popular long wigs). 

But how could LPT make this visually interesting? It announced that it would send a T-shirt and 'I'm Growing My Hair for LPT' badge to everyone taking part in the challenge, in exchange for a selfie of them in LPT gear and an update on their ponytails.

The campaign has gone down a storm. After an initial dip in engagement and messages received on social media, within a fortnight, LPT was seeing greater activity than ever before, across all platforms. Comparing April to March 2020, there was a 23 per cent growth in engagement across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, a 99 per cent increase in sent messages, and a 24 per cent increase in messages received.

Ben May is the Charities Marketing Manager at CAF. With over 10 years' experience in the not-for-profit sector, Ben is committed to boosting the impact of charities globally. Find him on LinkedIn.

Survive. Adapt. Thrive.

Explore more actions to survive, tools to adapt and strategies to thrive during and after the Covid-19 crisis. Use the links below or get an overview of the resources available now

How charities are adapting to Covid-19

Susan Pinkney shares our research into the ways charities are innovating (3 min watch).

Watch the video

Collaborating with other charities

Michael Mapstone on why charities should consider working with others (5 min watch).

Watch the video

Nailing and communicating your mission statement

Beth Clarke on how to get your mission across to donors (5 min watch).

Watch the video