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How to be involved in impact as a trustee of a small charity

The ultimate responsibility of trustees is to ensure that a charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit. So understanding the difference that your organisation is making is at the heart of being an effective trustee. But too often boards don’t have or don’t use meaningful impact data to inform their decision making.

As a trustee of a smaller organisation, how can you practically support the development of an impact culture and help to your charity to further achieve its mission?

Here are six simple steps:


Assess where you're at with your impact practice

So you know where to focus your efforts, take some time to assess your areas of strength and weakness in terms of your impact practice. For example, are you great at collecting data but less good at analysing and using it all?

The cycle of impact practice provides a useful overview of the whole process of working on your impact. It has four stages – plan, do, assess and review. Is your organisation stronger in some of these stages than in others?

For a more in-depth assessment of your impact practice, Measuring Up! is a free online self-diagnostic tool. It asks you to rate your organisation against a number of criteria and provides you with a useful action plan at the end.


Prioritise actions - don't try to do everything at once!

Sometimes organisations want to try and tackle all aspects of their impact practice at once. To achieve lasting change, it may be more effective to prioritise actions and aim for the achievable, not the over-ambitious. For example, you may want to choose one stage of the cycle of good impact practice to focus your efforts on initially.


Make impact someone's job

Developing your impact culture requires people, time and energy. Assign both a trustee and a member of staff (or a volunteer if you are a very small organisation) who will lead your impact work and ensure that they have time to drive forwards the work.

This may require some investment, however it will pay off over time as your charity becomes better able to demonstrate and improve the difference it makes.


Involve people and build skills

Make sure that people in your organisation are equipped with the impact skills and knowledge they need. Consider running a training session or workshop to enable people to learn from one another. This will also help to demonstrate that your organisation thinks impact is important.

Involve people in developing impact processes and tools. For example, get people with first-hand experience of the work to help articulate your outcomes or to design a new data collection tool.

This will improve the quality of your impact practice and also help to ensure people feel they are part of the process, rather than it being imposed on them.


Use the information you collect to inform your decision making

Make sure that at board level, and within staff teams, people use the information you collect in order to make better decisions. Having put in all that hard work, we don’t want the data to go to waste!

This means having the relevant information analysed and readily available,

Consider setting up a quarterly slot to proactively review what your impact information is telling you and to consider how this may affect your future planning.


Regularly review your impact practice

Once you have your impact culture up and running, don’t forget to keep reviewing how things are going. You might like to return to the cycle of good impact practice or Measuring Up! in order to re-assess where to go next to strengthen your impact practice further.

Further information

How to build an impact culture 

Measuring Up! - a free online self-diagnostic that allows you to review and improve your organisation's impact practice

The cycle of impact practice - part of the Code of Good Impact Practice

Are you leading for impact? Five questions for voluntary sector leaders


Page last edited Sep 11, 2019 History

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