I like to think that life is like a marathon, in that everyone races for their own reasons. Sometimes you meet up with fellow runners and other times you come to a fork in the road where you part ways. You must be lead by your inner voice telling you what is important, rather then just finishing the race with the best time or the most calories burned. All of the clients that I have had the privilege to work with at Manoverboard are either focused on causes related to helping community or the environment.
When you are gauging your company’s impact on the lives of inner city youth or the amount of beets you planted in a community garden, it’s not as simple as dollars and cents on a balance sheet. Impact is fluid and often difficult to nail down, but there is a great way to demonstrate your purpose that will leave customers, investors and other stakeholders happy—and that is through an impact report.
An impact report is not just another annual report. Impact can be difficult to quantify, and simply inserting impact-related facts into a traditional annual report tends to fall short. Annual reports are built to show certain information over the course of a year, and there many items shown in an annual report that an impact report does not require, such as an organizational chart or financial table.
So, what are the best ways to communicate your impact so as to better resonate with readers?
Define Your Purpose
Communicating a clear purpose is the first step to communicating impact. And communicating the reason you go to work everyday will help provide a lasting connection with readers. Why are you doing the work you do and what impact do you want that work to have? What are your values as an organization? What do readers need to know about your business that they may not gather from your website?
Set Your Goals
Defining your goals is important to show investors and customers how much you have accomplished and what you plan on accomplishing in the future. Use your values and purpose to drive your goals, whether they are long- or short-term, and show how achieving those goals will help the planet and the people you care for.
Measuring the impact that your actions have made is more important than ever. Greenwashing and other “-washings” are common and, while measuring outcomes takes work, it is valuable to your readers to show you mean business. Before diving into an impact report project, take a step back to evaluate your impact results, stories, and metrics. Did you achieve the change you are seeking? What can your business do better next time?
Tracking your impact, however small, is an important piece of the puzzle and should, ideally, be done regularly and with intention. Gathering evidence to support the impact claims that you are making will solidify your position as a change maker.
Seek feedback and try to show what activities you need to improve upon. Have you learned anything about your recent impact that you did not know before? To improve, you also must assess lessons learned and put that new knowledge to use.
Communicating impact is hard work. And resources about best practices in communicating impact are difficult to find. One great source that I found is The Principles of Good Impact Reporting (worth a read!).
After your research, if you are still struggling with messaging, design, or production of your impact report, or you are looking to create a hybrid impact/annual report, please contact Manoverboard for help. We would love to hear from you.