We’re experiencing a growing collective mindset in an era of rising scepticism – so it’s time to build trust and buy-in through transparent social impact reporting.

Australians are collectivist, rather than individualistic. What does this mean? We are largely supportive of government and, more specifically, the services they provide. Universal healthcare, welfare support and free public education are fundamental to our social cohesion. In exchange for this public trust comes a robust expectation of accountability. This applies to government, but also to businesses and nonprofits.

Research specialists, McCrindle released their ‘Communicating your social impact’ report at their recent ‘Rebuilding communities and measuring social impacts’ webinar. It tells us that annual reports alone do not cut it anymore. Consumers and NFP supporters expect to receive compelling, frequent and relevant information about the impact of their engagement, in a format and on channels that work for them.

“Social impact reporting is the process of communicating not just the activities undertaken by the organisation but the outcomes and changes that have occurred because of it.”

Fundraisers must take note. Because if your donors do not understand your organisation’s impact – and the difference their support makes – their interest and trust will wane.

Most of you will be familiar with the term, ‘social impact reporting’. But what exactly does it mean and how do you get it right? Let’s explore the McCrindle report…

Reading the room

What is the mood in 2022? McCrindle’s research tells us COVID-19 has created a significant shift in the way Australians are feeling.

We are emerging from the pandemic with new priorities, with 79% of Australians re-evaluating the relationships they want to invest time in.

There is a growing collectivist mindset that takes us away from individual, and towards community thinking. People are realising their individual actions have an impact on the community around them. And they expect others to have this awareness too.

Demonstrative of this collective mindset is the finding that, compared to three years ago, more Australians (a third of us) value shopping locally and having a walkable community, and just over half of us want to be part of a strong local community. COVID-19 has been instrumental in this shift, forcing us to appreciate what is on our doorstep.

People are a vital component of ‘community’, but 92% of Australians agree that organisations also play a crucial role in rebuilding connections in a post-pandemic world. And this is where social impact reporting comes in – it shows you understand the role of your nonprofit in facilitating community connection. It tells the story of your NFP’s actions – and those of your supporters – creating ripples of change. It is the process of communicating not just the activities undertaken by your organisation but the outcomes and changes that have occurred because of them. And finally, social impact reporting holds your organisation accountable.

Donors want access to this information. 91% of Australians expect (nonprofit) organisations to provide the same reporting metrics as businesses. 87% agree that social impact reporting builds their trust with an organisation. And the effectiveness of your fundraising depends on your donors trusting you.

So, here is how to measure and effectively communicate your organisation’s impact.

Younger generations, new expectations

Younger generations are driving the rise of social impact reporting. 93% of Gen Ys (aged 28 to 42) are more likely to engage with an organisation that clearly communicates its social impact compared to 80% of Baby Boomers (aged 58 to 76). Younger cohorts are also more likely to tell others about organisations that clearly communicate their social impact – a phenomena called ‘social proofing’.

“We anticipate that within a decade, just like financial reporting, social impact reporting will be viewed as essential, if not mandatory.”

We are already witnessing a focus from younger generations on sustainability as a lifestyle, with just over half taking steps to reduce their use of single use plastics, 42% increasing their purchase of organic or locally produced food, and 41% stopping or reducing the regularity in which they purchase fast fashion. The younger generation is making changes to their lifestyle to be more in line with what they value, and they expect to see the organisations they support align with their values too. Social impacting reporting is how you prove that alignment.

So… what to report on?

Australians surveyed indicated what they believe are the most important issues for organisations to focus on in the year ahead:

“Social impact reporting is a relatively new practice, and its measures are often bespoke to the organisation’s vision and mission. On a broad scale, however, Australians are looking for reporting to give insight into how an organisation’s actions are impacting the lives of individuals, communities, and the environment,” says the report.

Gen Z regard environmental impact (69%), staff morale and wellbeing (65%) and social impact (65%) as being extremely or very important when it came to what organisations tell them.

While an organisation’s governance came lower down the ranks, it is important to note that this consideration is still important for older generations, with Baby Boomers including finances and governance in their top three inclusions for reporting.

Now that we know a bit more about what Australians want to hear about, let’s consider how they want to receive that information.

How should we measure it?

McCrindle’s top tip? Think about the metrics you want to capture right at the beginning of program planning. Metrics and KPIs shouldn’t be an afterthought, but at the heart of your programs. If you capture those metrics right from the start of a program rollout, it helps you show change over time.

How should we tell people about it?

In short, McCrindle’s research has shown that people want social impact reporting that is:

  • More visual and in shorter form
  • More frequent and consistent than annual reporting

“Australians are looking for bite-sized, regular updates about an organisation’s impacts.”

Remember that we live in a time when it has never been easier to access information, and peoples’ attention spans are short, so your reporting should stand out and be easily digestible.

Fabulous format

The most engaging forms of social impact reporting are short video summaries (with an average 47% of Australians seeing this as the most engaging format), infographics (43%), and interactive web reports (39%).

These formats are preferred over articles (36%), written reports (31%) and podcasts (28%), but it is important to note that age plays a role in preference.

 

 

Preferred platforms

McCrindle explored which platforms Australians find most engaging when it comes to social impact reporting. The top three are social media (45%), websites (44%) and email (41%). A third of Australians consider text messages (33%) as extremely or very engaging. The least engaging platform for hearing about an organisation’s social impact is a blog (25%).

The generational difference? It won’t surprise you to hear that Gen Z (aged between 9 and 24) are three times as likely as Baby Boomers to find learning about an organisation’s impact extremely or very engaging if it is done through social media. It will be vital for any organisation to embrace this channel as an engagement platform if they want to future proof.

This is not the death of direct mail however! 33% of Baby Boomers included DM in their top three platforms for social impact reporting.

Frequency

The majority (41%) of survey respondents like to receive monthly updates. 31% want quarterly updates. One in 10 want weekly updates, with these responders mainly sitting in the Gen Z cohort.

In terms of how long Australians are prepared to engage with social impact reporting, 39% are willing to spend only two to five minutes, 33% will spend six to 15 minutes and just 12% will dedicate 16 to 30 minutes. The proportion willing to give more than an hour? Just 2%.

What does all of this tell us? That Australians are looking for bite-sized, regular updates about an organisation’s impacts.

A note on honesty… it really is the best policy

Remember that impact reporting gives you an opportunity to be honest. It is important to tell your organisation’s success story, but if you can also show where you need to improve and how you intend to do that, it builds trust that you are transparent and proactive in progressing towards your vision.

McCrindle’s six tips for social impact reporting

Define your vision and objectives. Create clear measurable goals that will help you achieve your vision.

Design your program with impact measurement in mind. This allows you to identify key milestones and determine the best metrics to record.

Collect your evidence. This could be through surveys, interviews, or the analysis of big data. This will be unique to your organisation.

Analyse your data. Data alone does not tell the story, but it does provide important insights that show how impact has changed over time.

Bring your data to life through storytelling. Take complex information and translate it into stories and imagery.

Share your story. You know your organisation is having a positive impact, but it is important to share this story more broadly with the community and stakeholders – don’t let your engaging and compelling insights go to waste by keeping them to yourself!

Shine your light

McCrindle anticipates that within a decade, just like financial reporting, social impact reporting will be viewed as essential, if not mandatory.

Australians are changing – they want to contribute to a healthy community and environment – and they expect organisations to do the same, particularly nonprofits who, by their very design, should bring positive change for individuals, communities and societies.

This expectation exists in an era of rising scepticism and declining trust. So now is the time to be transparent and tell your story of impact loud and clear – and don’t forget to include the role supporters play in making that impact possible!

Social impact reporting is the way to let your light shine, it’s time to switch it on.

 

Research methodology

The ‘Communicating your social impact report’ is based on quantitative research, as well as scoping research and data analytics.

A nationally representative online survey of Australians aged 18+ was conducted to gain insights that form much of the report. The survey was in field from the 6 to 10 January 2022 and collected 1003 completed responses. Throughout the report, respondents are referred to as ‘Australians’. The word ‘organisation’, used throughout the report, includes both for-profit business and nonprofits. Future predictions utilise existing data that has been extrapolated using internal projections.

McCrindle are research specialists based in NSW. To access the full report and watch the accompanying webinar, click here.

print
X
Subscribe to access this article.

Continue reading your article with an F&P subscription

Join with other top fundraisers to receive insight, analysis and inspiration to help you raise more funds.

subscribe now for $1

Cancel anytime.

Already a subscriber? LOGIN HERE