Original article published in Spanish on ESADE's ESocialHub

15th March 2017. Lorena Crusellas, Programme Coordinator for the Prevenir Association, started to measure the impact of their work in 2011. At the time it was impossible to imagine the effect this was going to have on the work of this small association with nine employees and an annual budget of 160,000 euros that today works in Spain and Portugal.

Why is it important for your organisation to measure its social impact?

Our work could not be understood today if it did not include measuring, transversally, the social impact we generate. We have seen for ourselves the benefits of identifying and developing our own indicators of results and impacts in our daily work and, more specifically, in our fundraising work. Measuring our social impact has led to a new fundraising strategy which has allowed us to raise more funds of a private nature, especially in this last phase of the economic crisis.

Why did you start measuring your impact?

 It all began with the evaluation of the social impact of the project “I’ll pass…” funded in 2011 by the Fundacion EDP, the Oeiras municipality and the Sumol+Compal company. Impact measurement was one of the requirements to get funding for this project whose objective was to promote a healthy lifestyle among 1200 youngsters from 11 to 15yrs. old.

What has been the main benefit obtained by measuring your social impact?

The main benefit can probably be found in the change in our language. We have gone from the original, more conceptual and, up to a certain point, vague discourse to speaking about our work in a clear and structured way. Now all the members of the team are capable of defining simple, concrete indicators and adjusting them to other programmes with similar impact maps. For example: before, our reports spoke of improving health by encouraging a balanced diet amongst the youngsters but lacked data that really showed a behavioural change in them. Now, thanks to the impact indicators, we can pick up on that behavioural change in a concrete way.

How has impact measurement influenced your fundraising?

There have been various benefits in the fundraising field. Perhaps the most important has been working with an external consultancy which has helped us build the models necessary for measuring the social impact of our programmes. That has provided us, I would say, with a hallmark of quality which has given us the strength and confidence to change our image on the one hand and our way of approaching our meetings with possible donors on the other. Since 2011 we can speak with propriety about the results obtained when we meet with new funders such as the Obra Social de la Caixa or the Spanish health authorities. It is a hallmark which provides an internationally recognised methodology of impact measurement and introduces us to a language more common to other funders with whom we were not previously familiar.

Another of the direct results of starting impact measurement has been the development of a standard proposal model which all the members of the organisation share and which can be adapted to the needs of each funder. This makes it easier for us to present new tender because we can copy and adapt output and outcome indicators depending on the principal activities of each project. We are more efficient when it comes to presenting our candidacies.

Impact measurement has also had an influence in that we now present our programme proposals in a more orderly way that includes impact indicators based on the 2011 project. They are divided into different modules of activities depending on the categories or sphere of impact. In this way we can parcel such modules depending on the type of impact they generate and present them independently to different funders and widen our range of donors.

Times are changing. How are you preparing for the future?

We’ve been measuring our social impact for four years now and have redirected our way of working. Now we’re also present in Spain and our work is oriented towards franchising our educational programmes so they can be developed by other organisations with greater capacity and number of beneficiaries. This model is also possible thanks to our method of measuring social impact because it facilitates long-distance supervision and evaluation of our projects.

What’s more, we have included the social impact evaluation of our programmes as a complimentary service in our proposals to funders. We have standardised our programme model and adapted the initial indicators to new projects with the aim of extending the practice of impact measurement and, at the same time, widening our range of services.

Interview by Pilar Balet, Communication coordinator and consultant at Stone Soup Consulting and Susan Balet, consultant specialized in social impact measurement at Stone Soup Consulting.