5 Questions to Chart Your Organization’s Community Impact

When writing grant applications, there is a framework referred to as “Charting Impact” that grantors look for when considering a grant proposal. While this is a good tool for evaluating grant applications, it is also a good framework for any business looking to make and communicate the progress they are using to plan and evaluate for a positive impact in their community.

In the era of Covid19, businesses are seeing the real benefit of fulfilling needs and missions within their communities. Not just focused on selling and profits but demonstrating to consumers that the business is making a positive impact in their community by directing some of their time and funds to making a difference.

Today, let’s take this same framework, central to grant writing, to the workplace with “Charting Impact” by applying these five simple yet powerful questions to your organization.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

Clearly and concisely, what is your organization’s ultimate goal for making an impact in your community. Identify the groups or communities your business can assist, the needs your work is addressing, and your expected outcomes. Examine how your goals fit within your overall plan to contribute to lasting, meaningful impact.

Why? Articulating your organization’s impact goals helps your customers really understand your mission, where you are planning to help and your intended outcomes. It also gives context and purpose to your employees and business day-to-day activities that surround this meaningful mission.

2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

Describe your organization’s activities for accomplishing the impact goals you have identified. Specify the approaches you are doing and/or going to do and why your organization believes these actions will benefit your community.

Why? Clearly articulated strategies help those outside and inside your organization understand how you are going to make an impact in your community. It provides goodwill and trust among your customers and potential customers as well as your community as a whole. It also has clear benefits to creating a positive company culture and a common, united goal for your employees.

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

Detail the resources, capacities, and connections that are going to be used to support your progress towards your goals. While describing your organization’s core assets, identify both internal resources (including, but not limited to, staff, budget, and expertise) and external strengths (including partnerships, networks, and influence) that will or have contributed to the impact you have defined. Also include any future resources and tools that will further strengthen your impact in the community.

Why? Identifying your organization’s specific capabilities and how they are aligned with your impact goals can help you use your resources effectively. This gives your community confidence that your company cares and is making a positive impact. The purpose is not to list every resource, but to identify how your organization’s capabilities, both internal and external, will and are contributing to your intended impact.

4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

Explain key qualitative and quantitative indicators against which your organization will assess your progress and demonstrate your impact to the community. Include a description of your assessment and improvement process: the qualitative and quantitative methods you use as you monitor key indicators, and how your organization uses and will use that information to refine your efforts.

Why? By definition, a long-term goal is not accomplished overnight. Monitoring key indicators and marking important accomplishments along the way help an organization stay on track, instill confidence and let both internal and external observers track movement toward achieving identified impact goals.

5. What have you accomplished so far?

Demonstrate recent progress toward your goals by describing how your current objectives are propelling your organization toward your intended impact. In describing both outcomes achieved and those not yet achieved, include what your organization has learned about what does and doesn’t work, what risks and obstacles exist, and what adjustments to goals, strategies, or objectives have been and will be made as you move forward.

The point of identifying, outlining and documenting the answers to these questions is to provide a clear path. A path that is achievable and can easily and concretely be communicated to employees and the community.

Seeing and feeling a difference makes the goals and words generated by your business real and therefore believable. Seeing is believing. While clear actions and demonstrable progress provide goodwill within and outside your business environment