Why impact measurement is vital for family and domestic violence charities
21 June 2021 at 4:47 pm
Researchers say community organisations rarely receive funding to measure their impact in a way that accounts for social change over time
Australian family and domestic violence (FDV) services need more funding for outcomes measurement and evaluation, to ensure programs are properly supporting the needs of vulnerable women, a new report says.
The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (CSI UWA) has recently completed an analysis of Zonta House, a specialist FDV service based in Perth.
The report examined outcomes from the charity’s programs to assess the organisation’s overall impact on women experiencing or at risk of experiencing FDV.
Researchers found that the wraparound support, complementary programs and referral pathways offered by Zonta House helped create a better future for women in several key areas.
For example, the report said Zonta House provided secure crisis and transitional housing for 500 women and their children between 2015 and 2020, increased financial independence for clients, and decreased women’s levels of physical and mental wellbeing.
It also found the charity had helped break the cycle of FDV – with most women not needing to access crisis or transitional accommodation again.
The importance of measuring impact
Researchers said it was important that FDV organisations like Zonta House had the capability to demonstrate their impact on clients and the broader community.
They said this evidence base could be used to facilitate long-term funding and investment in an organisation, further enabling the provision of high quality services in the FDV space.
Despite this, researchers noted community organisations rarely received funding to measure their impact with deep analysis across different programs that accounts for social change over time.
The report said community groups needed greater support to create measurement frameworks so they could determine the impact of individual programs and the whole organisation.
“Investment by government and other funders is needed to facilitate the measurement and evaluation of program outcomes and capacity building in the community sector to improve program efficacy, inform decisions about future program development, and provide high quality services to meet the needs of its clients,” the report said.
CSI UWA director Professor Paul Flatau told Pro Bono News that outcomes measurement and evaluation was important – particularly in the FDV sector – because organisations want to know they are making a difference.
“It’s also an accountability thing, because funders are demanding more in terms of agencies demonstrating the impact they’re making,” Flatau said.
“That means that you also have to pay and support greater capacity within agencies to do this kind of work.”
Flatau said the evaluation highlighted the importance of cross-program service delivery, which goes beyond safe accommodation to also focus on employment and mental health needs etc.
He added that the findings of this report should send a strong message to funders.
“[Impact measurement] is really important for the sector because it provides a really important signal to the world that [we should] fund more programs that can provide this holistic support in the family and domestic violence space,” he said.
Zonta House CEO Kelda Oppermann said the report’s findings would help shape the organisation’s ongoing approach to supporting women and children.
“This external analysis and evaluation is vitally important as it forms the foundation for our continued commitment to improvement and innovation,” Oppermann said.
“Knowledge that will also inform a whole-of-community approach to supporting women and their children in their recovery.”
Collaboration key to impact reports
Flatau said this report was a joint piece of work with Zonta House, with the charity engaging with CSI UWA at every step of the journey to ensure the report was accurate.
For Flatau, this level of collaboration is vital for any piece of outcomes measurement and evaluation.
“It was a really engaged piece of work between us and Zonta House, and I think that’s the way that evaluation should go down, where you help build up the capacity of those services at the same time as you’re evaluating,” he said.
“[Collaboration] is a critical part of this.”
You can see the full report here.