We’ve found that from time to time, community projects struggle to prove that their project makes a difference – mostly because their priorities lie in making a difference to the community they’re serving, and not demnonstrating it.
So, in our most recent live discussion over on the Just Act forum we asked some of our Community Champions as well as some of the CDF staff what tools and techniques could be used to prove to the community and to future funders what sort of a difference community projects make.
Tools and techniques
Rich: Photos – Before and after photos can work a treat if your project makes a physical difference to a place. (Make sure to take pics from the exact same angle and distance.)
Kerry-Anne: Monthly Newsletters – Write a simple newsletter (make it visually vibrant) and put it up in windows of local businesses to inform the community about what you’re up to and how you’re making a difference.
Rich: Video – This can combine feedback with a look at how your project is transforming a community. Perfect for embedding on websites and social media, and potential funders can even view from mobile devices. Make it short – 90 seconds keeps it digestible and shareworthy.
Kerry-Anne: Newspapers – I must write about 3 press releases a week, but contacting the local newspaper is a really good way to keep your community up to date with your project.
Gathering feedback and testimonials
Kerry-Anne – Write down what people have said about the work you have done. Ask them if they would mind writing a sentence or two about how your project has made a difference and what they have gained from this.
Rich – Use SurveyMonkey or another survey website to create a short and clear feedback survey. Think hard what format you would like certain answers in, e.g. yes/no, multiple choice, open answer.
Difficulties with demonstrating impact
Kerry-Anne – It can be difficult to strike a balance between doing the work and demonstrating it. It’s all about finding what everyone is good at and honing in on those skills so that it works for everyone.
Alex – I work for CDF and recently met up with the YMCA in Crewe. Part of the way they were able to raise additional funding was very interesting. They have used our relatively small grants to ‘trial’ on a small scale certain projects.
This has meant that they were able to produce evidence of how successful these projects were when applying for larger grants. I think this is something that groups should keep in mind when applying for grants, whatever the size of the grant you are applying for.
The grant giver is looking for projects that will give value for money and that they think will to be successful. Having evidence that shows the project will most likely be successful can work really well.
Jamie – In our research we see lots of ways that projects big and small can show the difference they’re making.
One of these is Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis. Don’t be put off by the scary name, it basically is about giving a financial value to all of the things that you put into the project – your money, time, equipment – and to all the impacts that you have. Then you can say “for every £1 that we spent on our project we created £5 worth of value to the local community”, for example.
Want to read more? Click here to catch up on the full discussion.