In association with

Measuring the impact of your purpose-led business

Measuring the impact of your purpose-led business

If you want your business to do good, you’ll need to know if you’re succeeding. What good are you doing? How much? Can you do more? Are you doing any harm? Learn how to choose and develop measures for your business, and think about how to keep records.

Find out if you’re making a difference

You need to know what you’re doing well and how you could improve when creating your positive change in the world. That way, you can show your investors, staff, funders and customers what difference you’re making, so they want to keep supporting you.

Many businesses track their activities and outputs, eg number of workshops run, products sold or customers served. Finding out the difference you make is about tracking what happened because of those activities (outcomes) and outputs. This tracking is sometimes called measuring your impact.

Keep track of what you’re doing, rather than relying on random feedback. You’ll need measures: markers or clues (sometimes called indicators). For example:

  • If you run a course to help people get jobs (activity), you could record how many people attend your course (output) and how many of them get jobs (outcome).
  • If you’re trying to improve people’s physical health, you could ask people how much fast food they eat in a week, what their blood pressure is or how much sleep they’re getting.

Decide which outcomes are most important to measure, then pick measures for those outcomes. An outcome is a positive change you want to make in people’s lives or for the planet. Measuring your outcomes helps you truly know what difference you’re making. Identify different measures for different outcomes.

Make measures specific, relevant and measurable

When you choose measures, make sure you’re measuring things that you have influenced directly. For example, if you run a course on getting jobs, the number of course participants who get jobs would be a direct measure, but the country’s unemployment rate would not be, since not everyone who wants a job will attend your course.

You don’t have to pick perfect measures from the start. You can change what and how you measure as your business and impact grow. Start with a few good measures, rather than a long list of measures you might struggle with.

Use measures that show the positive change you’re making (your outcomes). Having evidence that you are creating positive outcomes can persuade others to support your business, eg give you money or work for you.

Choose measures that meet the criteria below:

Circular target with arrow in the centre.Specific

Be clear about what you’re measuring

Speedometer display.Measurable

Make sure outcomes can really be measured or counted

Puzzle peices with one peice about to be put into place.Relevant

Relate each measure to an outcome you want to achieve

A clock.Timing

Decide when to measure

A plus symbol within a circle. Positive

Focus on what you’re doing, instead of what you’re not doing

A tick symbol within a square box.Focus on outcomes

Measure what’s happened because of what you’ve done, not what you did to achieve it

Explore others’ measures

Get inspired by looking at measures from other businesses that do good, especially if their purposes are similar to yours. Start by browsing their annual reports or impact reports.

“Track and report on the things that matter most, so you can tell a compelling story of change.”

“Track and report on the things that matter most, so you can tell a compelling story of change.”

Aleks Nedeljkovic, Director of Impact Consulting at Ākina Foundation

Develop your measures

Answer the questions below to identify and improve your measures. The number of measures depends on your impact model, but four or five is a good number to aim for.

The questions work like this:

  • The results you choose in Question 1 will help you choose your measures in Question 2.
  • The measures you choose in Question 2 will shape your answers to the remaining questions.
  • You may get insights as you answer the remaining questions. If you want to change your answer to Question 2, go ahead, but check if you should change any other answers.

Developing your business and impact models

1. Choose outcomes to monitor

You could pick three or four priority outcomes: the most important outcomes in your impact model. These are the outcomes that show the change you’re making and if you’re doing a great job.

If you pick too many outcomes, measuring your impact can be complex and time consuming.

2. Choose your measures

For each outcome, pick one or two things that can show how well you're achieving that outcome.

Collect different types of information. Numbers can show the size of your change (eg number of people who get jobs after completing your course). Feedback can show the quality of your change (eg what participants say about what it meant to them to find a job).

Think about the details of what you’ll measure. For example, will you distinguish between people who choose to work part-time and people who work part-time because they cannot get full-time work?

3. Identify where you’ll get your information

You could get your staff to collect information about their everyday work. For example, you could ask your staff to record how many phone calls and texts they get or how many people they help.

Or you could survey people or research publicly available information. If you’ll measure something by asking someone a question, write the question you’ll ask and who you’ll ask. If you’ll be asking the question in a survey, record how people will answer (eg using a 5-point scale, free-text or multiple-choice answers).

However you get your information, think about these things:

  • Is your source accurate and reliable? For example, if someone records something as it happens, the information will be more accurate than if you ask them later.
  • How will you collect your information? For example, if you carry out an online survey, you’ll get many responses but less depth. Or you could carry out a phone survey, which is time consuming but allows you to dig into answers.
  • How will you collect only specific and relevant information, and not more? For example, if you want to know what languages people speak, ask for languages, not ethnicity as well.
  • How will you ensure that everyone gives you the same information? For example, if you want to know if people work full-time, say at least 35 hours a week.

4. Compare your information

Think about what you can compare your information with. If you’ll use information from another source, record that source here.

If someone else is collecting similar information to you and you could compare yours with theirs, write that down. For example, if you and another organisation both help people find work, see what their success rate is. If theirs is very different to yours, you might want to see what you’re doing or measuring differently.

5. Decide when you’ll measure

Write down how often you’ll gather this information. Collecting it should be:

  • often enough that you can respond if something changes
  • not so often that collecting information becomes impractical.

How often you collect information is especially important for surveys. If you survey too often, people may get tired of your surveys and stop responding.

If you have to allow time for something to work, think about how long that’s likely to be. For example, if you coach people on how to behave in job interviews, allow time for them to attend interviews before measuring the outcome.

6. Save your information

Record where you’ll save the information, so you can find it easily when you have to. Make sure the information is secure, especially if you save personal information.

“Proving and improving your impact takes ongoing examination and self-reflection.”

“Proving and improving your impact takes ongoing examination and self-reflection.”

Aleks Nedeljkovic, Director of Impact Consulting at Ākina Foundation

Case study: Measuring the difference that job workshops make

Case study: Measuring the difference that job workshops make

Mohammed wants to help people in Auckland get jobs. He wants to run two-day workshops on how to look for job ads, write CVs and cover letters, and make a good impression at interviews. As he sets up his business, he thinks about how to measure the difference he makes.

  • What outcome he monitors. Mohammed will monitor whether people get jobs after attending his workshop.
  • What measure he chooses. He will measure the percentage of workshop participants who get jobs. He sets himself a target of 90% of people getting jobs within three months of his course.
  • Where he will get his information. He will ask if they’re in paid employment. If they are, he will ask when they started work. If they aren’t, he will ask if they have a job that they will be starting soon. Both will be yes/no questions. He will survey course participants using Survey Monkey. When they sign up for his workshops, he will ask if he can survey them three months after their workshop.
  • What information he compares. He will look at Stats NZ’s employment rates for Auckland. If the city’s unemployment rate is low, his workshop participants should be finding jobs too, otherwise his workshop is not effective.
  • When he measures. He will send out surveys three months after each workshop.
  • How he saves the information. He will save his survey results securely in Google Drive, with folders organised by month.
Develop your measures

Use our template to answer the above questions and sketch out your measures.

Develop your measures [DOCX, 26 KB]

Keep records

Save the information you collect in a way that works for you and your team. What exactly you save depends on how you intend to use the information. Here are three options to think about. You can use them together or separately.

Use a notebook

Think about these main advantages and disadvantages of notebooks.


  • Notebooks are easy to use.
  • Notebooks don’t need maintenance, not even batteries.
  • Notebooks are cheap.


  • Each site has to have a notebook.
  • Notebooks can’t be backed up. If the information is gone, it’s gone.
  • You have to count, search for and evaluate information manually.
  • Information will be hard to maintain consistently and accurately over long periods.
  • Keeping track of notebooks is hard. How many notebooks does your team have? Who has a notebook? Have any notebooks been lost?
  • Notebooks take up space, and storage can become a challenge after a few years.

Use a spreadsheet

Think about these main advantages and disadvantages of spreadsheets.


  • Most people can use a simple spreadsheet, or be shown how to use one.
  • Spreadsheets can count, calculate and generate graphs and reports.
  • Anyone can access spreadsheets that are stored online.
  • You can back up spreadsheets so you don’t lose information.


  • Spreadsheets used by a team have to be saved on a server or online, so everyone can access them.
  • You’ll need software to use spreadsheets, or at least an internet connection, depending on the software you choose. This usually means buying or installing software.
  • You’ll also have to have a device with a decent-sized screen (at least a tablet).
  • Spreadsheets need to be set up and maintained by someone with a certain level of skill and care if they are to work well. Depending how complex the spreadsheets are and what skills you have in your business, you may have to rely on one or two people to update them and fix problems.
  • Some people dislike spreadsheets.

Use software

Think about these main advantages and disadvantages of databases or software designed for customer relationship management.


  • Such software can often do calculations and generate graphs and reports.
  • Information is accessible from anywhere if it’s saved online.
  • You can back up software so you don’t lose information.


  • You’ll have to learn to use the software.
  • Support may be hard to get if you have questions or need other help.
  • Costs can add up if you have to pay for the software, especially if you have to pay monthly or yearly fees, fees for each user, or both.
Rating form

We appreciate your feedback

Rate this

"Rate this" is required