Social Impact Measurement  

The main goal of non-profit organisations and social enterprises is to conduct activities that have a long-term impact on people, communities and society at large. Measuring their impact and showing the tangible and intangible value they create becomes crucial to further scale their operations (through enabling further collaboration or funding).

What is social impact?

Social impact relates to the long-term consequences of actions by an organisation to address a social challenge.

Why measure social impact?

  • Improve credibility and accountability
  • Make fundraising more efficient to attract more donors
  • Share data with other organisations to foster more collaboration
  • Increase learning and improving services leading to better results for participants
  • Improve marketing and communication
  • Inspire staff and volunteers.



Step 1: Identify the objectives and the stakeholders

For example:

  • The organisation wants to measure social impact to increase funding from a venture philanthropy organization. Product: report to potential donors.
  • The organization wants to decide whether to keep a program or not. Product: Evaluation report on the program.

For example:

Result of Step 1: clear social impact measurement goal responding both to the organisation’s and the key stakeholders’ needs by gaining an understanding of the holistic view of the organisation

Step 2: Define theory of change: input, activity, output, outcome and impact

It is recommended that for each program that the organisation has, one theory of change should be created: essentially a one-pager that details stakeholders, activities, inputs, outputs, outcomes. It is important that this theory of change is refined with the organisation itself in strong collaboration (eg: weekly meeting) as they are the expert.

This step includes the collection of as much data and information available from the organisation so the impact measurement model complements what the organisation is already measuring in terms of data (eg financial data is always measured).

For example:

  • Social problem or issue the organisation is trying to solve: 2.6 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation and this number is not decreasing despite billions of dollars of aid. The resulting disease and water pollution cause 1.7 million deaths and a loss of $84 billion in worker productivity each year. In Kenya’s slums, 8 million people lack access to adequate sanitation causing disease and death.

For example:

  • Building low-cost sanitation centres in slums
  • Collecting the waste produced
  • Processing the waste into electricity and fertiliser

For example:

For example:

  • Number of users
  • Number of products sold
  • Number of schools built
  • Amount of waste collected

For example:

  • Improved health for toilet users and overall slum
  • Improved access to education

Result of Step 2: mapping of the organisation’s activity(ies)’s implementation

Step 3: Define indicators for outputs and outcomes

Result of Step 3: set of indicators that will allow the organisation to measure the value of the organisation’s activity

Step 4: Measure results

For example:

For example:

  • Number of people having access to toilets in slums before building the sanitation network (activity of the organisation) and what prevents others from accessing toilets

Result of Step 4: set of tools appropriate to measure the set of indicators defined in step 3

Step 5: Evaluate impact based on outcomes

For example:

For example:

The change that was caused by the organisation is the impact of the organisation.

  • Impact: students with access to education not including those with an alternative (e.g. open air classes): 2
  • Which means improved access to education for 2 students out of the total target population.


Result of Step 5: in-depth analysis of how the organisation’s activity fits in the environment and evaluation of the impact created on the different stakeholders identified in step 1

Step 6: Monitor and report

For example:

  • A report for donor outlining how the funds were used to make an impact
  • A detailed report with appendices and calculations for management
  • A detailed report highlighting assumptions for a grant application

For example:

  • Design the survey
  • Use spreadsheets to keep track of the data
  • Put in place pre and post surveys for constant evaluation

Result of Step 6: design plan to ensure that a continuous process is undertaken over the life of the delivery of an activity and is set into the normal operational systems of the organisation.

Other useful tools

Key Framework

Data collection methods


One-stop-shop websites and research papers


Please help us with your feedback!