Social value is about making a tangible, human difference. It’s about people. Having a real-world impact on actual lives. Then why, so often, does social value reporting largely focus instead on cold figures and statistics?
It quickly becomes about proving you’ve met a certain target or have hit all your KPIs, without exploring what this means in the real world. How hitting this target or KPI has changed someone’s life or experience for the better.
Figures and graphs are effective at proving your organisation’s ongoing effort and commitment. And they do go some way to showing your specific social impact. But by focusing on this alone, we miss out on the human story. The contextualising element that gives your efforts true, tangible meaning.
That’s why we think carrying out surveys is an essential aspect of social value reporting. They’re the final piece of the puzzle. A way to join your impact and data together.
Social Value Surveys: Bridging the gap between data and the real-world
Raw data doesn’t mean anything. It’s just numbers on a page. You might have a graph that shows 80% of end users you supported through a charitable donation felt happier. But why did they feel this way? What do your efforts mean to them and their lives?
Survey results enlighten you to the reasons behind why things are happening, drawing a line between your data and real-world impact. They allow you to hear the voices of genuine people and understand their thoughts and experiences.
In the above instance, survey results also provide a way to investigate why 20% of respondents weren’t happier. They offer a more well-rounded perspective to your impact. Both the good you’ve achieved and the space you’ve got left to do even better.
Here’s another example. Say you’ve got a line graph that proves your organisation has hit its target on the UN SDG number 1: no poverty. You’ve logged X amount of volunteer hours at a local homeless shelter and have introduced a local labour employment initiative that’s hired ten local people in the first three months. That’s great.
Surveys allow you to go one step further. You could send a digital survey to people who the homeless shelter has helped find a new home and get back on their feet. And the same to the local people you’ve hired. Or their families. From here, you hear directly how your efforts have positively impacted people’s lives.
Surveys humanise your social impact data
As people, we love stories. We relate so much more to a real-life story than to figures on a page.
Incorporating a combination of qualitative and quantitative data in your surveys allows your reporting itself to carry greater weight. For example, by using different question types to gather a wider range of data and insight (at Impact, we have 18 different input types).
The more data you collect, the more insightful, meaningful, real stories you can piece together to evidence your impact. And the more readers will care.
If your social value surveys are all multiple-choice questions, you’re going to be left with very detached, mathematical evidence. But if you incorporate open-ended questions and room for respondents to explain and go into detail, you’re bringing the essential human element back into your social value reporting.
You can be sure that anyone browsing your reports – be that customers, investors, or stakeholders – will care more if you’re giving them data that’s tangible.
With the right systems in place, qualitative data can be as easy to collect, manage, and analyse as quantitative data. There are methods like word clouds and semantic analysis that make understanding the true meaning of qualitative data simple and straightforward.
Enable your organisation to do more
Social value reporting is all about measuring outcomes to encourage more informed decision-making. Reporting on your organisation’s social value initiatives becomes a way to prove your commitment to investors, highlight what processes do or don’t work, and ensure you’re making as much impact as possible.
Wouldn’t this be even better with more data?
Surveys allow you to do this at scale, to fill any gaps in your data and establish wider, more valuable insight. They allow you to reach people who might otherwise slip through the cracks of your data collection methods and capture insight right from the horse’s mouth (so to speak). You can send out an automated survey to thousands of people in a few clicks. Similarly, interviews are a great way to bring your impact and data to life.
But interviewing hundreds of people takes time you probably don’t have. Surveys, on the other hand, are effortlessly scalable. You can survey 1,000 people with relative ease and receive the same in-depth insight as interviewing them one-on-one.
Real-time, digestible data
Data, feedback, or insight is so much more powerful (and accurate) when it’s collected and analysed in real-time, rather than weeks or months later. Another reason surveys are great is they allow real-time data collection, with quick analysis and reporting. And in some cases, you won’t even need an internet connection. All your data collection can be done offline. Then, as soon as you’re back online, all the data will be uploaded and organised.
Surveys also provide the means for repeat, fresh data, meaning your organisation always has a current, up-to-date edge. You can survey people multiple times over a set period of time to evidence ongoing, long-term impact.
And from here, your organisation can benchmark and standardise your results. Now you’ve got a much wider, more valuable range of data and insight to inform your decision-making, add value to your social initiatives, and produce more meaningful, effective reports on the impact you’re having.
Surveys add a valuable human element to your social value reporting. They enable you to move past numbers and statistics and incorporate people’s experiences and stories into your reports. And incorporating surveys doesn’t have to be a laborious or expensive undertaking. In fact, a lot of the technical, fiddly aspects of the process can be done behind the scenes with the right system or platform.
At Impact, our survey functionality makes collecting valuable, real-life insight simple. Our clients benefit from 18 different input types, offline capabilities, and conditional logic to ensure a tailored, relevant set of questions for each respondent. And all of this comes along with our intuitive, easy-to-use CSR reporting platform. Get in touch today on 0161 532 4752.