As with any commercial operations, accounting and measuring is a big second step. Taking action towards social impact requires measurement. Instead of calculating profits and sales, this is measured through impact metrics.

What are social impact metrics?

Impact measurement strategies are series of firm-level indicators, used to track social and environmental progress. The impact metrics you choose will determine the communication and outreach of each project.

These indicators need a plan. Developing an impact measurement strategy will set you apart from most impact projects out there. With metrics strategies in place, companies work in the direction of clear and unbiased objectives.

The theory on impact metrics is straightforward. Nonetheless, implementing them as a strategy can be a challenge. Every strategy depends on a specific set of goals. Your impact metrics plan will rely on your objectives as a company or social project, the context you are operating in, and your global theory of change. 

Let’s dig deeper with an example. A pharmaceutical firm is leading a birth assistance project meant to be implemented in rural Brazil. The firm will have to include metrics on multiple aspects such as fluctuations of child/baby mortality rates, parents’ satisfaction, community feedback, and many other social-based indicators.

Which metrics are the right ones for you?

There is no fixed process when it comes to finding the right metrics for you. Nonetheless, you can strive to develop a measurement strategy that is adapted to your specific audience.

This strategy should be aligned with your firm’s general mission, so it provides critical and actionable insight and feedback. Once in place, metrics will help measure your impact, and improve accordingly, always keeping your social and environmental goals in mind.

We’ve scooped up a list of general metrics you can start applying to build your own impact measurement strategy.

1. Net results metrics

By measuring the direct output of your action, you have taken the first step towards understanding the efficiency of a project. This task is more than simple data input. Yes, you might be taking into account a budget, or number of participants, but always considering these will be elements that will help you set specific goals.

Volunteered hours, emission reduction percentages, or number of funded initiatives are examples of objectives that could be set through net results metrics. You and your team will be responsible for choosing them depending on your project’s mission. 

By having recurrent yearly or quarterly goals, you’re now capable of contrasting these objectives with actual results. The percentages expressed through this exercise can be easily analyzed to help build new and even clearer outreaches for the time to come. 

2. Net promoter score

Although mostly used in market research, a Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a valuable tool to get a good grasp of a project’s social impact. This score amounts to a question phrased in a simple way:

How likely is it that you’d recommend X to your family or colleagues?

This question can be adapted depending on your project’s requirements. By answering it, you’ll be measuring the likelihood of becoming a “promoter” or “detractor”. These are categories that rank the perception of your project amongst a specific community.

3. Outreach metrics

Our economy is hyper-connected. This affects what businesses and NGOs prioritize, and how they do it as well. Topics with social purpose, such as social outreach and education, have become more relevant for every type of organization in the past years. 

Take technical innovation in rural communities as an example. If this is your aim, sharing a genuine message could motivate others to use your ideas in many different contexts. This would mean that your impact is multiplied in the process. Social media and website metrics are a couple of ways to get an overview of your outreach data.  

4. Inclusion and diversity metrics

Regardless of their field, region, or mission; every social project needs to account for diversity, not only of beneficiaries, but of its staff too. Surveys with individual questions about power dynamics, representation, and inclusion are common topics included when collecting impact measurements.

However, in the end, each of the questions included in a metrics survey will be directly linked to your project’s goals.

5. Open feedback

Quantity matters. However, the quality of the collected data will be your biggest asset when it comes to understanding real impact within your community. 

Feedback doesn’t only come from beneficiaries, who are considered external sources. Internal feedback, coming from employees related to the project is just as relevant. 

There are different ways to collect and assemble sets of useful feedback; setting up interviews, general surveys, open questions, and inquiries on personal experiences in relation to the project. All of these can provide an advantageous insight. Answers to every targeted point should be included in impact reports as a fundamental part of storytelling or case studies input.

Key takeaways

There is more than a single path to choosing the right measurement strategy. It can turn into a complex process that takes not only resources, but time.

Collecting information takes around 3 takes per metric. This means, for example, that data will be gathered before, during, and after the project is in place. Metrics should be considered from the start of each project (or even before it’s already taking place). 

Always bear in mind that keeping and documenting impact data is part of the project’s implementation, as well as its follow-up strategy and implementation of leads. 

If you want to read more on social impact innovation, check out the resources below or hit us up with your social impact challenge!