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How to develop mission statements that have impact

Measuring impact is the only way an organization can know whether its efforts and use of resources (often other people’s money) is doing any good.  Organizations that measure impact perform better and evolve faster.  Here are five steps aimed at determining the impact and calculating the return on investment of an organization’s operations.

Things you'll need

  • A clear vision for your organization
  • The motivation to succeed

Establish, unambiguously, what you’re trying to accomplish - what is your real mission?

You can't think about impact until you know what you're setting out to accomplish. Most mission statement offer little in this regard. Formulate (or re-formulate) your mission in just eight words or less that include:

  1. A target population
  2. A verb
  3. An ultimate outcome that identifies something to measure

Here are some examples:

  • Improving the life chances of young people
  • Expanding older people's quality of life choices
  • Providing people in [location] with quality affordable homes
  • Facilitating charity sector employees in accessing leadership development

If you can't establish this kind of concise statement, there's little point in continuing as you either don't know what you are trying to do or you simply wouldn't know if you were doing it!


Pick the right indicators

Work out the single best indicator that would demonstrate mission accomplished. Here are some examples relating to the missions stated in Step 1:

  • Increased numbers of young people achieving a sustainable start to their working lives
  • Greater variety of retirement solutions being accessed
  • Growing base of stable tenancies
  • Greater take-up of leadership development activities

Sometimes it is possible to identify a single best indicator - and this is ideal. Other times you might need to capture the outcome through a carefully chosen and minimum combination of indicators. The clear aim here is to be able to answer, at appropriate review points, "Are we fulfilling our mission?" 


Get real numbers

The aim of this step is to evidence a change that has arisen from your operations. This means being able to show a change from an established baseline. This is about measuring the right thing(s) in the right way(s).


Make the case for attribution

If you have real numbers that show impact, you need to make the case that it was your efforts that caused the change. This is the hardest part of measuring impact because it asked you to be able to say what would have happened without you. When real numbers show there has been a change, a useful question to ask is "What else could possibly explain the impact we observed?" 


Calculate return on investment

Once you have observed that your operations are having a real and measurable impact, you need to know at what cost. You can always generate impact by spending very large amounts of money, but this is unlikely to remain sustainable, scaleable, or fair on investors/funders.

The easiest and arguably most effective way to calculate return on investment is to divide the total money spent by the total impact. In organizations that do more than one kind of project, it is often possible to split out what they spend for their various impacts. It is important to remember that start-ups are expensive so bear this in mind in the early stages of an operation but do ensure projections for steady state operations make sense - and assume that such projections are usually at the optimistic end of the scale!

Further information


Page last edited Jul 10, 2017 History

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