We mentioned last week that not all data is equal, that an essential part of creating better social value reports is gathering the right data. Just because you can collect data on pretty much anything under the sun doesn’t mean you should. And this is no different when collecting social value/impact data for measurement and evaluation.
Valuable social value reporting is targeted and considered in its approach. It’s about moving past the binary of social value being about percentages and hitting targets, about proving your impact at all costs, and into reports being about real people and real-life success stories.
For businesses looking to maximise their social value and reporting, getting the right kinds of data – quantitative and qualitative – and presenting this in an accessible way is essential. Let’s look at how you can make sure the data you’re collecting is truly valuable and meaningful to your business’s reporting and generation efforts.
Focus on what’s most important
No business – especially not now – has the resources or funding to try their hand at everything and see what sticks. There’s no room to trial multiple social value initiatives that might not be as fruitful as others. Instead, we all need a targeted, more intentional approach to generating value.
To achieve this, you need to figure out what matters most to your business. What aligns best with the values and interests of your wider business, as well as your staff, customers, and partners?
We suggest you create a materiality matrix every year to help shape your social value strategy. These take the form of a graph weighing up the impacts of initiatives and strategies on your business and the importance of them to different interested parties. Rather than wasting time and resources on initiatives that aren’t relevant to your audience, materiality matrices allow you to recognise what data is most valuable.
Avoid feel-good metrics
In a similar way to people getting caught up on the likes on their recent social media posts, businesses run the risk of focusing on feel-good metrics. This becomes more important than monitoring the actual impact they’ve had and using this to inform decision-making and to do even better with future strategies. Over the years, social value reporting has become so heavily concentrated on numbers that we often ignore the bigger picture entirely. We miss the vital essence of social value: adding value to real people’s lives.
Let’s say your organisation hosts community events to tackle unemployment and upskilling. Instead of saying 300 people attended your events over the course of a year (which is great) and leaving it there, send your participants a quick survey. You can litter their responses throughout your reporting. What skills did they learn? How have these improved their life situation, such as through securing a new job or inspiring them to join a local internship program? This is an example of going from basic, surface-level data to impactful, human data.
While numbers have their uses, that quantitative data is best balanced with human stories and qualitative data. We should rely less on graphs and percentages, making space for stories that show exactly how we added value to the beneficiaries of our initiatives.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture
Social value reporting is about so much more than proving to investors you’re having an impact. We’d be lying if we said this wasn’t on most businesses’ agendas. Business is still business after all, and this is a key way of securing further funding. But this shouldn’t dominate your attention while generating value.
Social value is about people. It’s about improving people’s lives and leaving the planet in a better place than we found it. And this is the bigger picture we should all be focusing on when reporting our value. Telling the full story of our efforts.
It’s important to recognise that effective reporting involves gathering the data you need to inform your future strategies and initiatives so you can continue even more ad nauseam.
The most valuable reporting prioritises the accumulation of a smaller amount of valuable data, rather than gathering masses of data just for the sake of it. It’s using both qualitative and quantitative data to inject human stories into your reports and draw a distinct line between inputs, outputs, and outcomes.
In short, valuable social value reporting focuses on what really matters. Your reporting should be a tool for producing even more value in the future, not just proving yourself in the here and now. It should share tangible impacts and human stories, rather than relying solely on cold and detached graphs and statistics.
Using Impact, your organisation can easily monitor the outcomes of the initiatives and strategies most material to your business. With simple data measurement, organisation, and reporting features, our platform puts all the most valuable information right at your fingertips. If you want to find out more, call us on 0161 532 4752.