From delivering the best for service users to attracting new funders – outcomes and impact measurement is the administrative heartbeat for mental health charities. But in a rapidly changing world, could you take yours to the next level?
The importance of impact and outcomes reporting cannot be underestimated. It enables mental health charities to meet service user needs, secure transformative funding and refines vital projects. But with the mental health landscape rapidly changing and competition for financial support ever-increasing, many are looking for ways to ways to improve its effectiveness and efficiency.
Louise Kermode is Head of Services at Jami UK, a charity providing specialist mental health support and advocacy services within the Jewish community. At any one time, they are providing 27,000 separate service provisions to 1,300 clients. Throughout the pandemic, the charity has adapted quickly to the changing needs of their clients – and have been successfully securing the all-important funding needed to deliver innovative new services during a difficult time. For Louise, this success comes down to robust and agile measurements, frameworks and systems for outcomes and impact reporting.
“The Covid-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on issues that have been ongoing for the sector. Funding for community mental health organisations has been decreasing every year since 2014, resulting in a lot of competition for contracts and financial support. So, even pre-pandemic, we have always been refining, adapting and developing our impacts and outcome measurements to give us an edge on funding applications and make us stronger and more efficient as a service provider. When the pandemic hit, these issues were intensified – just as demand skyrocketed and our service users needed us more than ever. But it was our flexible approach to person-centric, evidence-based reporting that helped us adapt quickly to changing funder and client needs.”
Since 2012, Jami UK has been working with Gallery Partnership – a full service IT company supporting over 200 charities across the UK. Throughout the pandemic, the changes in funder requirements and service delivery have seen many more charities asking them for support in their impact and measurement reporting systems. Oliver Grig, the company’s Operations Director, believes that the covid pandemic has made more charities realise the need for a new way of doing things.
“From established and potential clients, we’ve certainly been noticing recurring themes. We’re regularly hearing that funders want more evidence – their requirements are increasing and ever-changing. We’ve seen amazing innovations in service delivery, but we’re being told that gathering the evidence to support these developments is often an administrative nightmare. Most importantly – and most often – charities tell us that measuring client outcomes and progress is incredibly difficult as services have had to move online and in-person contact is limited. It’s been an exciting time to help so many charities follow Jami UK’s example and overcome these challenges.”
Working within such a broad sector as mental health, charities naturally have their own individual requirements when it comes to impact and outcomes measurements – but there are several quick fixes every charity should consider to enhance their reporting and create a positive impact for clients, their people and their income. Here, Louise and Oliver give some top tips on incorporating new measurements and how they can be implemented.
The Client’s Voice: Combine the Quantitative with Qualitative
As mental health charities, taking a person-centred approach is the way to deliver the best support outcomes for your clients – and funders are increasingly looking for evidence of this too. But can the traditional forms and number-crunching tell the full story of the positive impact you have at an individual level?
To take your reporting to the next level, you can give your service users a voice. While many mental health charities use qualitative surveys to gather service user feedback, Jami has included this as a key part of their impact and outcomes reporting – and it’s been making a difference for clients, staff and funders.
For Louise, while the numbers remain important, they can only give you a part of the narrative. They can tell you what is happening, but they can’t tell you why. She’s seen great results by allowing qualitative research to complement their quantitative measurements.
“Lots of charities use surveys with their service users, often through systems such as SurveyMonkey. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, the results can often get lost. We took an approach that integrated our surveys within our case management system so they sit alongside our other measurements to tell the full story of our impact. It’s helped us truly understand what causes service user disengagement and act on it at an individual level. It’s enabled us to win additional funding by proving there is a positive personal response within the community for new initiatives, and it’s helped motivate our staff. We get to log on to work every single day and see the real human impact we are having on the people we work with. Being able to see their comments alongside the graphs and numbers is fantastic. There isn’t anything better than starting your day and seeing a comment such as ‘this service saved my life’ to show the impact of our work.”
Value for Money: Test Your Assumptions and Prove your Worth
Including a value for money measurement in your reporting adds a new level of evidence that can guide your organisational strategy. Many charities measure staff time to monitor resource availability, but simply adding in the cost-benefit can ensure you’re demonstrating its value – identifying where improvements need to be made and highlighting funding gaps.
This metric has been especially helpful for Jami UK throughout the pandemic. As services were delivered remotely, it’s enabled them to see the value of introducing telephone services in the longer term, providing quantifiable evidence for the financial viability of their volunteer workforce.
For Louise and the team at Jami UK, the major benefit comes from testing the assumptions of stakeholders, citing it as a powerful tool in ensuring they remain focussed on creating a positive impact for their clients and services.
“Mental health charities are often under a lot of pressure from internal and external stakeholders on the direction we should take. It means that sometimes they can operate in a top-down way, based on what they assume will be best. Including a value-for-money measurement is a really valuable tool in evidencing where resources would be best allocated. For us, it’s added a new dimension to our reporting – keeping us on track and basing our decisions on all the facts available.”
Real-Time Reporting: Taking Action When it’s Needed
If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that a lot can change within a short space of time. So why wait for weekly or monthly for your reports? By introducing live, real-time reporting your charity can adapt quickly to changing client and funder requirements.
When Jami UK launched new services in response to the national lockdown, the real-time reporting they had in place meant that they were able to begin seeing the results within hours – enabling them to see the impact and make adjustments from day one. Louise also notices further benefits in how real-time reporting helps them tell their story internally and externally.
“Real-time reporting gives frontline staff the ability to communicate with all of our people in the moment. Those not on the frontline of service delivery are all given access to anonymised versions of our live dashboard, so they can see a snapshot of what is happening as it happens. Everybody can benefit from this. It gives our fundraising team the edge, enabling them to be reactive in funding applications, our PR team can produce timely stories to communicate with our supporters, and senior leadership can quickly identify where resources need to be reallocated. It gives a really strong insight into what’s happening on the ground with our services – and never before has there been a more important time for such timely communication and decision-making.”
Taking Your Reporting To The Next Level
Jami UK are just one of hundreds of charities across the UK using Apricot to power their impact and outcomes reporting. The powerful web-based case management system offers a secure, flexible and easy-to-use solution to help you win funding, refine your services and plan new ones. It’s available to UK charities exclusively from Gallery Partnership. Find out what they can do for you at www.gallerypartnership.co.uk or call 020 7096 2808.