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Society considers philanthropic and charitable efforts to positively impact individuals and their communities and the larger world. As someone with a passion for philanthropy and also a businessman, I want to know my efforts have made a difference. Because social impact is somewhat subjective, it can be difficult to determine how impactful certain actions or efforts ultimately are. Yet, we can use metrics and best practices to assess how effective our initiatives have been and make positive, productive changes to our future efforts.

Types of Impact

Dividing impact into different categories can simplify the task of measuring how our efforts have helped others. You can assess how a community-based initiative has impacted a targeted demographic or how programs have impacted the individuals who directly participated in them. Depending on what type of impact you are measuring, your approach to measurement will vary.

Types of Data

To effectively measure social impact, you will need to assess both qualitative and quantitative data. Because social impact seeks to improve others’ lives, it is important to consider what individuals have to say about their experiences and feelings. When dealing with subjective reports like this, it is important to consult many individuals to provide a more comprehensive look at each initiative and its impact. More data increases your chances of finding patterns and improving accuracy.

Quantitatively, collecting numerical data is key for determining how impactful your efforts are. What you collect and analyze will vary depending on your initiatives. Suppose you are working to improve literacy rates or help homeless populations find work. In that case, you can measure things like reading scores or academic performance and the changes in employment rates among homeless individuals in your community. Gathering this data can be challenging; having strong connections to community leaders and relevant organizations can prove beneficial. 

Conducting surveys or interviews is one way to collect both types of data. Surveys allow for targeted responses that will directly correlate to what you want to know. Interviews may be more open-ended, but can provide valuable insight into what is effective, what is meaningful, and what could be improved.

Not Easy, but Worthwhile

Measuring social impact is not a simple task. Whether assessing success on an individual level or reflecting on the community or society as a whole, measuring social impact is a process that takes time and determination. Ultimately, these measurements can provide incredible insight into how social initiatives can change individuals’ lives for the better.