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Three Elements of Great Social Impact Reporting


Wednesday, 16th November 2016 at 9:16 am
Mike Davis
Effective social impact reports add significant value to engagement with key stakeholders. Mike Davis, founder of Purposeful, shares his top-three reporting tips.


Wednesday, 16th November 2016
at 9:16 am
Mike Davis


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Three Elements of Great Social Impact Reporting
Wednesday, 16th November 2016 at 9:16 am

Effective social impact reports add significant value to engagement with key stakeholders. Mike Davis, founder of Purposeful, shares his top-three reporting tips.

Measuring and reporting on social impact can be a major challenge for not-for-profit and for-purpose organisations. However, following a few simple, fundamental rules can help a great deal. The rules are: tell a good story, be transparent around process and outcomes, and communicate precisely.

  1. Tell a good story

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But it also has character arcs and moments where we can see character development and growth.There are expectations set by the director and fulfilled or not fulfilled for the characters and audience. A good social impact narrative will include:

  • the key stakeholders (characters)
  • the inputs and outputs (resources)
  • a theory of change (expectations)
  • what actually happened (change process)
  • outcomes (conclusions).

The best storytelling will also have a good balance between narrative (qualitative) and data descriptors (quantitative). This balance is best determined by thinking about the quality of information that you have and how the audience needs are best met. A story is most compelling when we can draw lessons from it and apply it to our own situation.

  1. Be transparent

The best social impact reports will impart authenticity and honesty, telling you about success but also about failure, risks, missed opportunities and unmet target outcomes. They will also not over-claim successes or over-attribute outcomes, where it is not justified to do so.

Finally, they will clearly articulate what goals they set, whether they met them or not and perhaps why they failed to meet them or how they will endeavour to meet them in future.To do so you may include the following in your report:

  • limitations
  • risks
  • future opportunities
  • shortcomings
  • challenges.
  1. Communicate relevantly

This is about knowing, understanding and connecting with your audience.Your social impact report will likely be read by a range of stakeholders for a range of purposes. It’s important to make sure there is a good balance of information in there to meet the needs of all of these stakeholders. Before including any information, consider its relevance to the audience and whether it adds value to your reporting.

Some important things to consider:

  • Who are the key stakeholder groups that will engage with your social impact report?
  • What are the key things they would want to know?
  • How would they like to digest the information?
  • What will they be using the information you are providing for?
  • Finally, what action would you like the reader to take as a result of digesting the information you have presented?

This short article provides some key insights as to how you can maximise the effectiveness of your social impact reporting.

If you can manage to tell a good story, be transparent around process and outcomes, and communicate relevantly then you have integrated the key elements of a good social impact report.

Doing so will add significant value to your engagement with key stakeholders and showcase a commitment to transparency, accountability and relevance in reporting on social impact.

About the author: Mike Davis is the founder of Purposeful, a social impact advisory dedicated to empowering businesses to grow their social impact and performance by adopting a purpose-driven approach to community, partnerships, strategy and people and culture. Davis is a former health, social and public policy adviser. Recently, he has worked as a senior advisor in government and has a Masters of Law (Human Rights). He is interested in business and social impact strategy and innovative approaches to social value and wellbeing measurement and evaluation. He is a board member at the Awesome Foundation Melbourne and a recent facilitator at Peer Academy. Start a conversation with him at mike@purposeful.net.au.


Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike is the founder of Purposeful, a social impact advisory dedicated to empowering businesses to grow their social impact and performance.


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