CHARITIES STRUGGLE TO MEASURE OUTCOMES
In this post, Zoe Callis, Ami Seivwright, and Paul Flatau of the Centre for Social Impact, University of Western Australia write about the practice of outcome measurement in Western Australia, including its facilitators and barriers. This media release provides a snapshot of the major findings, but readers are encouraged to peruse the entire series. Their research suggests that while efforts to measure social outcomes has increased in the last year, the actual practice has decreased. The main barrier? Funding. But, there are others…
Research led by The University of Western Australia's Centre for Social Impact and funded by the Bankwest Foundation has found a gulf exists between the expectation of not-for-profit groups and charities to measure their outcomes, and the funding available to do so.
The report calls on more dedicated, incorporated funding contracts, particularly those provided by government.
More than 350 small, medium-sized and large charitable organisations across the country completed the annual Outcomes Measurement in the Community Sector Survey.
UWA Centre for Social Impact lead researcher Professor Paul Flatau said the latest report showed that in the past year there had been a drop in the proportion of organisations measuring their impact from 75 per cent to 70 per cent. However for charities that did measure their outcomes greater effort was being put in than in previous years.
Larger organisations (turnover greater than $1million) were more likely to measure their outcomes compared with smaller organisations.
“A key finding is charities face significant constraints to resource outcomes measurement activities,” he said.
“Around 60 per cent spend less than three per cent on outcomes measurement which is far lower than recommended levels. A primary cause lies in the lack of funding to measure outcomes effectively with funds mainly sourced internally.”
Despite funding constraints, the report showed that the sentiment about outcomes measurement among community organisations was positive and widely accepted. Debra Zanella, CEO of RUAH Community Services and President of WACOSS, said there were still improvements to be made in terms of practice.
“Not only do organisations need to invest in developing internal capacity for measurement, funders need to come to the table and recognise the cost and effort associated with outcomes measurement and fund accordingly,” Ms Zanella said.
The 2019 Outcomes Measurement in the Australian Community Sector Report found that a majority of community organisations reported that they understood their outcomes well but only a small number thought the community understood their outcomes.
“There is a significant opportunity for the community sector and governments to work closely together to measure the overall impact of programs and to set targets on critical social outcomes such as poverty, unemployment and overall well-being, ” Professor Flatau said.
Bankwest Managing Director Rowan Munchenberg said he was proud of the work of the Bankwest Foundation Social Impact Series and its contribution to the measurement of community outcomes.
“Bankwest has supported community and economic growth and prosperity for 124 years and the UWA-led research, funded by the Bankwest Foundation, is a powerful example of this commitment,” he said.
“I congratulate Professor Flatau and UWA's Centre for Social Impact for the development of the Social Impact Series of reports, which will lead to better outcomes measurement in the community sector.”
The report Outcomes Measurement in the Australian Community Sector: A National Report Card has been published here and is the 10th report in the Bankwest Foundation Social Impact Series.