Reporting On “Impact” Will Spur More Donations

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Considering we now live in an age where virtually any piece of information is at our fingertips, it should come as no surprise that Canadians have become increasingly interested in seeing how their charitable dollars are being spent. People now want visibility into the impact their chosen charities are making in the world, and it is a charity’s ability to drive results which will inspire donors to give more.

In fact, according to a recent CanadaHelps survey of over 5,500 charitable donors, providing access to impact results was deemed far and away the number one way charities could increase a donor’s likelihood to give more, with almost three-quarters (73%) of Canadians saying they would likely donate more if they had access to a charity’s impact results from the previous year.

However, showing Canadians the impact their dollars are making has been challenging for charitable organizations across the country. Rather than looking at the impact a charity makes in its community and/or around the world, we’ve always fixated far too much on administrative expenses and overhead, wanting a charity’s support to go exclusively toward program delivery and not into staff, operations, technology, or training and development – as if the two were completely unrelated.

In a previous piece for The Huffington Post, I discussed how this focus on “admin ratio,” at the exclusion of all else, has resulted in a lack of capacity across the board for Canadian charities, especially smaller ones which make up the bulk of the social sector. Reporting on impact, however, has been difficult as no agreed-upon framework and methodology currently exists (although many are now emerging).

To help fix this, CanadaHelps, itself a charity, just launched an innovative new Impact Tool that will help change the measuring stick for how we evaluate charities. It gives charitable organizations of all sizes a simple, step-by-step approach for tracking and sharing the results it has generated, the impact it has had on the problem it’s trying to solve, and its resolve and plans to deliver real change long-term. Charities can then share their impact on, the country’s largest donations platform.

Moving to an Impact orientation will have two immediate benefits.

First, providing charities across the country with an easy, step-by-step approach to track and share their results will help put them on a path towards continuous improvement and greater impact. To further support the shift in mindset and practices, CanadaHelps made available an impact guide published by PHINEO, a European leader in helping enable social change, to Canadian charities. The 130-page guide provides step-by-step explanations and practical examples to help charities of all sizes adopt an Impact orientation as a primary framework to report results.

This is an important development in the Canadian charitable space. Not only does it provide the first scalable model for thousands of charities to measure and share their results, it allows their donors and supporters to view these charities through a different lens — the lens of impact.

Which brings us to the second benefit: Allowing everyday Canadians to see how a charity is fulfilling its mandate will promote greater accountability and allow people to invest more strategically when making donations. According to Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of Canadian donors were aged 55 and over in 2013– up from 29 per cent in 2004. In the same time frame, the proportion of the total amount of charitable donations contributed by older Canadians also increased from 39 to 47 per cent.

Given that donations have been relatively flat across the country in recent years, with a growing share of total donations coming from a small group of older donors, it’s critical that charities move to an impact-orientation to spur charitable giving amongst all Canadians, and most notably, younger generations.

When charities can start to show Canadians the true impact their making in their community and around the world, there’s no limit to the generosity we can spur and the good we can do.

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