User voice – how charities should measure impact

april-may-2011-049Keystone Accountability is built on the knowledge that the voices of constituents are key to improving the performance of your organization. In a paper published today Keystone’s chief executive David Bonbright and NPC discuss how user voice can and should be part of measuring the impact of charities. The guide is intended to help charities use feedback from their users to improve their performance and results.

Director of Development at NPC, Tris Lumley said: “While we have always been aware of the importance of engaging users in the work that charities do, it has taken a long time for NPC to respond to that encouragement, which has been led by Keystone’s David Bonbright. So I am delighted we have now been able to partner, to take a first step in bringing the now rich field of constituent voice together with NPC’s work on impact practice.”

Although charities exist for their users often these people have little or no influence over the charity’s decisions. Users rarely pay for the services of charities and often have little or now choice between them. Without methods of direct accountability charities need to seek honest feedback from their users and involve them in decision making.

This paper sets out three key reasons for this.

  • Moral legitimacy and reputational benefits – organizations that represent people’s interests and solicit funding in their name need user voice for legitimacy. However, it is striking how rarely charities can demonstrate that feedback exercises change the way they operate.
  • Effectiveness – feedback from beneficiaries gives charities a better understanding of their needs and can provide relevant support. Feedback data can guide and validate charity effectiveness.
  • Direct benefit to users – for some charities the progress of their users depends on their sense of agency and self-efficacy so ensuring that users feel heard, involved and values is crucial.

Despite these benefits the charity sector currently does not encourage good user voice practice. The focus in governance and reporting tends to be towards the funders rather than those meant to benefit. This guide is, therefore, intended for both charities and donors and provides practical ways to incorporate user voice into the way charities operate.

Read the full paper here.

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