There are many organisations, individuals, thought leaders and people working with charities trying to create a social impact measure. This is to succinctly measure the worth of a charity’s services.


In the world of not-for-profits and philanthropy, measuring social impact is seen as increasingly important, but like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. This may be sometimes seen as important for the wrong reasons.


Impact can mean different things for the various stakeholders involved in a charity’s work and for an individual who is receiving assistance, the direct impact can be significant. Impact can be dramatic, long-term and even life changing. For instance, consider a man who receives a meal while struggling in the grip of a famine, or a teenager in a remote community who is engaged by a musical performance for the first time. A Federal Government or large corporation may interpret the large-scale impact of these events as insignificant and minor, but clearly this can be life changing.


Using numbers such as lives saved, injections given, numbers in the audience or even dollars saved is an easy way for us to provide an overall idea or even comparison of different organisations’ impact. However, this is only the starting point. Speaking in these terms won’t bring about change but it may give some idea of scope, particularly when you want to understand real impact and support it.


There is another similarity between measuring social impact and beauty - if you merely use the terms by themselves, the audience you are communicating with does not gain a clear and effective understanding of what the impact is. Like beauty, social impact needs individual and visual examples to really get the point across. As fundraising agencies and marketers will know, without individual stories it is easy for the audience to see only numbers.


The recent Indonesian earthquake and tsunami disaster is an example of this. Without the individual stories, we see only numbers: 1000 dead, 100,000 dead, medicine, aid and food provided to one million people…. With individual stories with names, relatives and images, the statistics become people. We can relate to people, to families, to ruined homes. We can more clearly understand the impact of the aid organisations and the volunteer agencies.


At The Impact Suite we’re going about delivering the starting point, a broad brush description of impact that a charity delivers. Importantly, we are taking the first steps into delivering understanding, whereby we give charities the opportunity to talk about the breadth of their impact in a generalised way. The potential funder or donor can then decide whether they want to explore further and support the cause. There are over 56,000 Australian charities vying for support – go to www.theimpactsuite.com and make sure your charity is standing out from the crowd.