Leader interview: How impact measurement helps Missing People to prove and improve its services
The charity Missing People delivers complex services to lots of different people – making impact reporting a challenge. Director of policy, research and people, Susannah Drury, explains how the investment of time and effort have paid dividends across the organisation – from helping frontline staff take pride in their work to enabling the charity to adapt and improve.
Impact measurement and reporting are about both proving and improving our impact
“Impact measurement and reporting are important to us at Missing People because we want to know whether we are achieving what we set out to achieve for the people we support – that’s at the heart of it.
“It has to be about both proving our impact and improving our impact. Some of the reasons for impact reporting are – rightly – for funders. But it’s also for ourselves – we want to continually improve the way we are delivering support and make sure it’s in line with the needs of people who may want to use it. Through looking at our impact, we can look at where there might be unmet need where we might need to focus more resources or change the way we do it.”
We use stories and statistics
“Qualitative and quantitative information are both really important. There are lots of different layers to our service, so when we give a figure of, for example, the number of families we have helped, it doesn’t give a sense of how we do that without individual case studies too.
“We’ve worked hard to make our quantitative information as clear and transparent as we can. We follow Street League’s three golden rules of impact reporting: all percentages are backed up by numbers, it’s all auditable and not overclaiming is really important.
“We worked in a consortium with several other organisations to calculate the social return on investment of our return home interview service for young people. This was published by Railway Children, and for every £1 invested, there was £5 of value returned.”
Our theories of change are incredibly valuable
“We have done a lot of work in the past three years on our theories of change, which we have found incredibly valuable. We involved people from across the charity in creating them. They are really clear and accessible ways of presenting the complexity of our work – bringing together the softer and harder outcomes – and we have one for each of our service areas, such as children, adults and family support.
“They help us to measure the impact of each step on the journey of supporting someone every month, every quarter and every year. They also help those who are on the frontline to be able to feel proud of what they are doing; they can see what effect they are having. And as they helped to create them, they feel they own them.”
Anonymous services are a challenge
“One of the biggest challenges we have for impact measurement is that some of our services, such as our helpline, are anonymous. So quite often we won’t know what happens after that call – this is a really big challenge for helplines. It’s something that we think is valuable, but it’s not easy to do.”
Service users’ opinions are vital
“One of our biggest focuses is to really engage more with every kind of person that we support, as well as people we aren’t yet supporting who might need our help. We need to know how we can improve our impact for them and we want their views.
“For example, we have a service where we send text messages to a missing person’s mobile phone. We showed our standard text message to a group of adults who had experience of being missing. They immediately gave us valuable feedback on how we could improve the wording to make it more effective.
“Our future plans involve working out how we measure the impact of other work, such as our campaigning. For example, we have campaigned successfully for a new law of guardianship to allow families to manage a missing person’s legal and financial affairs. How do we measure the impact of that campaign?”
We’ve invested in impact measurement throughout the charity
“In terms of resourcing, I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. What we have achieved goes to show how much we have put a focus on impact measurement. We have a research and impact team, but we’re also spreading the skills in monitoring and evaluation more broadly throughout the organisation. We want to upskill people to do their own measurement and for our research and impact team to become, in a way, consultants to the rest of the organisation.”