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Social Impact organisations have a lot to think about and keep on top of – not only whether or not they are reaching their target beneficiaries and making a difference in their lives, but also: paying the bills and generating enough income.

It can be tempting to constantly look for new opportunities and develop loads of proposals for donors and investors as a way of scaling up your operation. But that can result in mission drift. Of course, you don’t mean to drift and you apply for funding with the best of intentions. But this happens to the best of us, and it is worth remembering that the only thing that matters is the goal that you’re aiming for. I’ve often told clients not to chase the money, rather chase the goal.

It isn’t as high risk as it sounds. Chasing the goal means:

  • Effectiveness: Focusing your interventions where they will contribute the most to your beneficiaries
  • Sustainability: Focusing your fundraising efforts on those donors and supporters who understand your mission (and therefore more likely to be with you for longer)
  • Efficiency: Keeping your organisation focused on the mission and not getting bloated

But how to do this?

Personally I prefer using strategic frameworks rather than theories of change. Strategic frameworks set out your goal, who you will work with, what you will do with them and what values / principles will guide your work. No assumptions about contribution towards a change, no short-term or long-term outcomes to achieve along the way to your goal.  

This approach allows for flexibility on the way to your goal. For example: you set out to improve the nutrition of children under the age of five in your area and you initially determine that the most effective way to do this is to empower mothers to make better nutrition choices through a food voucher scheme. But along the way, focus groups of mothers tell you that this isn’t the thing they need the most to improve nutrition of their children, what they really need are nutritional supplements that they can use and control in their own homes as part of their morning routines. Rather than having hard-wired your organisation into a long-term (and potentially costly) voucher scheme, you can switch some of your resources to test what the mothers are telling you, and if verified, set up a new intervention that delivers nutritional supplements in a format that mothers can use in their morning routines.

Don’t get me wrong, Theories of Change are widely used tools that many NGOs use really well. I use Theory of Change methodology all the time (its a great planning tool). I just think strategic frameworks are better.

And so do my clients. I recently finished an evaluation for a client that resulted in a new strategic framework, which they have put on their website now as part of the evaluation report: https://www.stopthetraffik.org/who-we-are/impact/evaluation-2019/

What do you think? How easy is it to focus on your social impact? What tools do you use? Do you want to know more about strategic frameworks?


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