Reporting and communicating your impact to your audiences
Introduction to impact reporting
What was once a fundamental practice of only nonprofits and social enterprises, has become increasingly critical to all types of organisations. Regardless of the industry, organisations are asking themselves and being asked by their key stakeholders, to reflect on their impact on society. A carefully crafted impact report is an important mechanism to communicate an organisation’s effect, to these different stakeholders — both internal and external.
An impact report is an honest reflection of an organisational impact, including opportunities for improvement or challenges being faced, and the action being taken to tackle these. It is a powerful tool to build confidence, trust and inclusion, and be accountable and transparent with the audiences that matter to the organisation — these could include employees, clients, customers, beneficiaries, investors, supporters, policymakers, and other organisations.
Reporting and communicating impact is the third step of an impact management cycle, following developing an impact strategy — including a theory of change for example — and measuring and analysing impact.
Our approach to powerful impact reporting
Our experience developing impact reports for a wide range of clients has informed a list of best practices to make your impact reports — internal and external — valuable assets for your organisations.
Impact reports should be accessible to, and meet the needs of, your audiences. Each audience is likely to require different impact insight — investors may seek detailed initiative impact progress and trend analysis to inform decision making, whereas customers may prefer a focus on services and outcomes. Identifying audiences upfront will help to shape the report, clarifying messages that speak to their needs.
An impact report is not a scientific article, and nor should it be. After all, its main purposes are to strengthen the organisational impact and communicate this to key stakeholders. Nonetheless, findings must be informed by evidence, quantitative or qualitative. This means taking a data-driven approach to impact measurement and presenting accessible findings, and a narrative that contextualises the results. Findings should be evidenced sufficiently, enabling organisations to verify results and respond to challenges confidently.
> Honest and Transparent
A good impact report highlights organisational successes as well as areas for improvement. It is not only about playing back the good stories but honest reflections on progress, blockers and future action to drive up positive results. Transparency helps to foster trust with your stakeholders. Be honest about your impacts and your approach to impact measurement, including the assumptions and limitations of the assessment.
Organisations do not need to produce extensive impact reporting on every programme or initiative it runs. Reporting should be proportionate to the size of the organisation, the impact it is having and meet the communication and audience objectives. Shorter and regular impact reports are often more appropriate — short, sharp and to the point. In the end, it is key to identify the most essential indicators that enable the organisation to measure and communicate the impact effectively.
Key impact reporting content
There is no hard and fast rule about the structure of an impact report but the content should talk to the audience.
Best practice impact report elements:
- Introduction: This may be a foreword from the CEO or Board, introducing the organisation, and explaining the purpose of the report.
- Impact strategies and objectives: It is useful to state the desired impacts upfront, for example by presenting your organisational Theory of Change.
- Impact measurement approach and methodology: The report must include a description of how the metrics were measured, including data collection methods and analysis techniques, to ensure that results can be verified.
- Context: This is a description of the problem statement in the current context. It could include policy changes, recent trends, and relevant events that may have impacted on the organisation and its success. This may also include ecosystem mapping and needs analyses, demonstrating both the wider context, in which the organisation works as well as the continued need for the organisation to add value and deliver its impact strategy.
- Activities: With ranging audiences, a clear description of organisational activities and quantified outputs (such as the number of sessions run or session attendees) is important content for readers to understand the organisation’s initiatives and practical contribution.
- Impact results: Data collected on outcomes, impacts and targets, are analysed and key insights played back in the form of statistics, quotes and case studies.
- Lessons learned: Impact reports reflect on the past but pave the way for the future too. Articulate recommendations to improve impact, from programme delivery and processes to management and reach. This should be an honest reflection on missed outcomes, and the action to change this going forward.
Select case studies
LHA Impact Reporting
LHA is a charity providing affordable accommodation to young working people and students in London, with the aim to make London more accessible, enabling young people to pursue their careers and passions...
auticon is an IT social enterprise, providing clients with a neurodiverse workforce to deliver their IT projects. Autistic adults often have extraordinary cognitive and technical abilities, yet many find it difficult to secure or maintain mainstream employment…
Impact reporting support
At Aleron, we have been supporting organisations produce their impact reports for over 10 years. This includes businesses, charities, foundations, social enterprises and investors. They can rely on our team of experts in social impact management and our suite of methodologies and tools that ensures that the process is straightforward, robust and tailored to any organisation.
We assist our clients in articulating their impact objectives, defining their strategies and activities, collecting the right impact data, generating insights, and developing high-quality reports. We also support them in the dissemination to key audiences.
If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Our other services
- SECR / ESOS reports
- SASB Report
- Sustainability reports