Published: 24 September 2010

Top tips for reporting your charity’s impact

How do you show the difference your organisation makes to people's lives? Freelance copywriter Trina Wallace focuses on impact 

My friend Jenny visits an older woman, Ethel, once a week for a local befriending charity.Sometimes they talk about the weather, other times it’s what’s on TV or what Ethel has had for lunch.

That’s not a very exciting summary of my friend Jenny’s volunteering. It’s not a very exciting way to start a blog either. But stay with me. 

You see, the impact of my friend Jenny’s volunteering is much more interesting.Sometimes Jenny is one of the only people Ethel sees all week. Talking to her, Ethel feels less isolated, less depressed and less alone. Jenny gets Ethel’s shopping, so she eats better too. Ethel is happier, she doesn’t need her carer to come as often and she can stay in her own home. The outcome of Jenny’s volunteering is that it saves money for the social care system and the NHS.

New Philanthropy Capital report

Reporting outcomes is crucial to good charity communications. Yet a recent report from New Philanthropy Capital, Talking About Results, says that charities are much better at talking about what they do than why they do it and what it achieves.The report concludes that charities must improve the way they report the outcomes of their work. Surprisingly only 41 per cent of charities analysed by authors of the report clearly communicated what changes they achieved in people's lives.

Tell your story

Reporting impact can seem like a daunting prospect for small and medium sized charities which don’t have the funds for expensive data collection measures or research. But impactful charity communications are achievable for any charity.It’s about telling the story behind the statistics and the nuts and bolts of how you deliver the work – the difference you make to people’s lives.

Here are four tips for reporting impact in your charity communications.

1. Bring it back to why.

Whenever you write about what you do, make sure you explain why you do it. You might run a helpline that takes 20,000 calls a month from vulnerable children. That’s great. But make sure you tell your reader that those calls mean children that don’t have anyone else to talk to feel listened to, supported and happier. That might mean they stay in school, don’t get into trouble with the police or run away from home. This is why you run the helpline, not because it’s popular.

2. Use the voices of the people you support.

Case studies are excellent ways to report the impact of “softer” outcomes like improved confidence or well-being. But make sure the change you make is your angle in any case study. Structure them using three sections: what life was like for your case study before they became involved with your charity (Ethel, in the story above, was isolated and lonely), your charity’s involvement (Ethel’s local charity found her a befriender) and the outcome or change that took place (Ethel is happier, healthier and able to live independently in her own home).

3. Think about how you measure success.

You don’t need loads of data to demonstrate the success of your work. Dig out those tenders to commissioners and use the facts and statistics in your charity communications. Talk to other departments to see if they have information that could be used to demonstrate impact. Someone working in your accounts department might have a killer fact that shows your impact. For example, do you have figures for the number of people going through your services? Or details of what ex service users are doing now? And don’t forget to talk to your project workers. Ask them how they measure the success of what they do.

4. Be honest.

Supporters want honesty. They know that you might not have achieved everything you wanted to this year but if you haven’t, they want to know why. Be honest about the challenges you are facing and explain how your expertise will help you tackle them. Don’t shroud copy in jargon when talking about these challenges, be direct and show how overcoming them will help change lives.


Trina Wallace, copywriter and editor, freelance

Trina Wallace is a copywriter, editor and communications consultant with around 14 years’ experience in the charity sector. She has worked with over 70 charities, including Cancer Research UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Alzheimer’s Society and Oxfam. Trina specialises in writing audience-focused communications that inspire people to take action.