Measures of Success

What does success look like, and how can we measure it?

Twitter ButtonGoogle+ ButtonFacebook Button

What does success look like?

If we are successful, in ten years’ time we will see the following: 

  • Overall, charities and social enterprises are managing to sustain their impact or achieve greater impact because they are more financially resilient and self-reliant. They have readier access to the finance that they need when they need it, to sustain and develop income generating activities (whether this be small loan, loan with grant or quasi equity). And, more charities and social enterprises who have not received this sort of investment before are accessing it.
  • Charities and social enterprises are diversifying their incomes through enterprise activity and trading more successfully, including through taking advantage of a wider range of investment opportunities, and crucially building stronger balance sheets. They have been able to make this shift because they have improved knowledge, systems, processes, skills and governance.
  • This shift has occurred because there is now more appropriate enterprise development support related to income diversification and now more places for charities and social enterprises to go to access smaller affordable loans and blended finance products.
  • There is a strong evidence base about what works to underpin the development of enterprise development and investment programmes by other funders, infrastructure bodies, and support providers. Also, other foundations have been encouraged to pursue a total impact approach to investment.

We need measures that show if Access is having the impact it intends. We will measure our success in five areas, which are outlined in detail below.

Some of these relate to Access’ direct impact, and some of these measures recognise our broader role in an ecosystem of other funders and support organisations, our role in influencing other actors, and overall how healthy the ecosystem is.

“Minimum viable measurement” should cover these without imposing an unnecessary or excessive burden on Access and crucially the charities and social enterprises in receipt of our funding.

Access does not need to quantify its impact on the ecosystem so much as to be confident that it has reduced dysfunction and promoted healthy function through its interventions.

Good measurement will help with decision making for Access as well as other actors.

Shared learning, engrained and adopted, stands to be a legacy that outlives Access.

Measures of Success

Access measures its progress across five areas: 

  1. The resilience of charities and social enterprises
  2. The perception of quality of enterprise development support and social investment amongst charities and social enterprises
  3. The level of expertise, fluency and collaboration around how enterprise development support and blended finance is provided to charities and social enterprises
  4. The use and application of the evidence base which Access has built
  5. The extent to which needs of social enterprises, charities and communities are addressed in diverse contexts, particularly those often excluded from investment and support

For each of these areas, details of the questions we are looking to answer, and the data we collect to answer them, are set out in the tables below.

Measure of success 1: Increased resilience of charities and social enterprises in pursuit of impact

Overview of measure

Charities and social enterprises become more resilient by diversifying their income through sustainable enterprise models, and using social investment to do so, thereby maintaining or increasing impact on beneficiaries

Questions to answer

Number of organisations supported

Quantity of support provided and of investment raised

Did Access’ direct or indirect support help charities and social enterprises to:

•       maintain or increase their social impact?

•       diversify their income through enterprise activity?

•       generate a surplus, if appropriate?

•       strengthen their balance sheet?

•       access social investment?

•       become more confident and capable of doing any of the above?

Data collection

Feedback from programme fund recipients

Tracking organisations throughout their involvement with Access through the diagnostic

Specific evaluations related to specific programmes

Amount of investment raised and/or increased income diversification, by type and amount

Measure of success 2: Perceptions from charities and social enterprises of quality of enterprise development support and social investment

Overview of measure

The reported quality of capacity building support and appropriateness of finance (with social investment as the focus) judged by feedback loops

Questions to answer

What has been the experience of organisations across and within each of our programmes? Did interventions help organisations to engage with social investment more effectively?

What has been the experience of access to finance and related capacity building support elsewhere?

What is working well in which sectors, in which geographies, at what scales and in what contexts?

Data collection

Diagnostic related for the capacity building support

Feedback from peer organisations, social enterprises and charities, funders, investors, infrastructure bodies, membership bodies etc. 360 degree feedback

Data from other non-Access programmes

Measure of success 3: The extent to which there is greater expertise, fluency and collaboration around how enterprise development support and blended finance is provided to charities and social enterprises

Overview of measure

Proliferation of expertise, fluency and collaboration around enterprise development and blended finance

Questions to answer

To what extent has a strong cohort of investors, providers and other bodies formed around these issues? To what extent are the needs of charities and social enterprises being better met by these organisations? This becomes increasingly important towards the end of Access’ life.

Have other funders been persuaded to provide subsidy to enable small charities and social enterprises to access social investment and capacity building?

Has learning from our programmes influenced how other initiatives are being designed and delivered (including total impact approaches)?

Data collection

Focus groups and semi structured interviews with key stakeholders

Surveys and interviews with charities and social enterprises that have been involved in Access programmes

Measure of success 4: Use and application of the evidence base which Access has built

Overview of measure

Extent to which all organisations including charities and social enterprises are accessing and applying the knowledge base as it relates to diversifying their income through enterprise models and accessing social investment

Questions to answer

Where and how do we see this evidence base being created and curated?

How is this intelligence used by intermediary and support organisations?

Have we deepened intelligence about the size of the market(s) and the range and scope of investible business models in charities and social enterprises?

To what extent are other foundations and other investors more inclined to seek impact through the management of their capital?

Data collection

Monitoring of use of evidence base, in terms of organisation size, sector and geography

Follow up with organisations to see how the evidence base informed practice

Measure of success 5: Needs of social enterprises, charities and communities are addressed in diverse contexts, particularly those often excluded from investment and support

Overview of measure

Support, whether from Access or elsewhere, needs to effectively reach charities and social enterprises operating with diversity. This might be about where they work, who they work with, what they address, the size of their organisation, the type of finance they need, and the terms on which it is available.

Questions to answer

Which contexts are showing progress and which are missing?

Where representation seems low, what appear to be the barriers?

Who can we work with and what can we design to address these barriers?

Data collection

Geography, area of activity, BAME representation, women-led organisations, age and size of organisations, turnover, number of staff/volunteers


From targets to transparency: aligning our progress with our approach

The standard means of accountability related to impact is to have targets and measure whether they are achieved. In our context these will relate to our programmes, as we will measure quantity of organisations reached, financial targets related to investment and grants and outcomes achieved.

However, targets for the above indicators might not be suitable for charting the progress Access is making. This is due to two reasons.

  1. Our approach is increasingly one of experimentation, adopting a lean methodology with constant iteration rather than a predetermined plan.
  2. The capacity building work is complex, in that it involves working alongside many different support organisations, with social enterprises and charities across a range of sectors and geography.

Therefore, instead of targets, we are adopting a process of transparency with as close to real-time data as possible. As we publish our activity, related to the organisations we are working with, and the outcomes that are being achieved, we will be able to understand more about whether our work is having the desired impact, and if not then change what we are doing.