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Odgers Interim Charities' Reception

7 February 2014

“Take impact seriously or you’ll be letting down your beneficiaries”

NPC’s Dan Corry tells audience of UK charity leaders


Dan Corry, Chief Executive of NPC / New Philanthropy Capital, last night advised an audience of senior UK charity leaders to take impact seriously. Dan was speaking at the Odgers Interim Annual Charities Event which this year took place at the firm’s head office on Cannon Street.

Dan covered various themes in his speech but he started with a summary of what ‘impact’ actually is (the overall difference an organisation, programme or intervention makes) and why the sector should care about it. He then went onto say why he thought charities - and funders – have shied away from addressing it head on. He cited a variety of reasons including; a belief that motive is all (passion, mission etc.), that impact is not what brings people  into charity work, the misconception that impact is about ‘bean-counting’ and that trustees are often more focused on fundraising than getting to grips with impact.

According to Dan, times are changing and impact is now climbing higher on the agenda. He believes this is down to various reasons, such as the fact that money is tighter for most charities and public sector funders are requiring charities to report about their impact. However, there are still some objections to it from across the sector, with many believing it is too hard to do, that it costs too much to do so and that and that it will incentivise the wrong behaviour.

He also gave an overview of the findings from NPC’s Making an Impact Survey 2012. It surveyed 1,000 charities with incomes over £10,000 to understand what has changed in charities’ impact measurement practices, the drivers behind measuring impact, and the benefits and challenges that it brings. Dan told the audience that most do it as they think it will help funding.

He also summarised the organisation’s Money for Good UK initiative which explored the habits, attitudes and motivations of the UK’s donors. He said that normal funders do care about impact, that they would give more if they understood and trusted it and that the young are more concerned about it.

Dan said: “Achieving an impact should be at the heart of all charities. While every charity does not need to do a randomised control trial you do need to take impact seriously because if you don’t you’ll be letting down the beneficiaries you serve and the cause you exist to tackle. Understanding your impact is not always easy but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. At NPC, we work with charities at every stage of their impact journey and we have seen how clarifying your organisation’s theory of change or developing tools to collect data, for example, can help an organisation to really improve its services.”

Moving beyond the technical challenges, Dan outlined some of the cultural barriers to embracing and focussing on impact, including how to bring your trustees with you and the importance of dialogue with staff and volunteers.

In terms of maximising impact across the sector, Dan believes charities need to work together more and suggested this could maybe be achieved by sharing measurement, what works and what doesn’t, collective theories of change and data. Dan also posed some ethical questions such as: is it OK to raise funding in a totally different way from the way you spend?; if you found another charity doing it better don’t you have an obligation to close your project down?; and do you have any obligations to rest of sector – or do you keep quiet if it’s not an issue that directly affects you?

Dan said: “Getting to grips with impact presents a challenge for many charities but it’s important to address these challenges head on and work through them. We owe it to our donors, to taxpayers and, above all, to the people we exist to help.”

Rebecca O’Connor, who works in Odgers Interim’s public practice, added: “Impact is becoming more of an issue across the sector so it was fascinating to hear Dan’s insight and knowledge. The charity sector has gone though huge changes over recent years, so our aim at Odgers Interim is to continue assisting its growth and development. Listening to Dan provided real inspiration and motivation in what is still an evolving environment.” 

 

Categories: Charities

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