Expectations of evidence

Funders of all types increasingly expect evidence to help them select the organisations that they perceive to be capable of making the biggest difference. The wealth of easily accessible online information (see information on the vcs) has raised expectations about the quality and the quantity of information that VCOs should provide.

Initiatives such as GiveWell from the US, and Giving What We Can focus on how effective charities are by looking at what they achieve - for example the number of lives saved for every pound spent - to identify where money is most needed. In an era of constrained public spending, this is also increasingly relevant to work funded by the public sector.

However, evidence does not have to be just facts and figures and may take other forms - VCS organisations are increasingly using rich media such as videos, or maps showing where they work to make conventional case studies much more powerful.

What are the implications?

  • Increasing pressure on VCOs to assess and demonstrate the outcomes and outputs of their work.
  • Projects which can prove that they are effective will have more chance of winning funding.
  • An increased amount of information available about the VCS
  • Potential for increased trust in charities and better understanding of the work VCOs do by both the public and funders.
  • An increasing role for infrastructure organisations in supporting small or inexperienced organisations in monitoring, evaluation, and report writing.
  • New funding methods such as social impact bonds seeking to reward the most effective organisations (see loan finance)

Moving forward

VCOs that are able to demonstrate the lasting benefits and distinctive value of what they do will be more likely to secure funding.

  • Does your organisation need to improve how it assess and demonstrates its impact?
  • How can assessment of the impact your organisation makes improve your planning?
  • Do you understand the true costs of projects to your organisation and are you able to communicate this clearly to funders?

Information about VCOs is increasingly provided online.

  • This does not only involve facts and figures - the evidence base is likely to include rich media such as photos, videos and case studies from beneficiaries.
  • Do you need to invest in resources or training to ensure your organisation is able to provide information in this way to both its stakeholder and funders?

Some organisations may need support in monitoring, evaluation and demonstrating impact. 

  • Can your organisation provide a supporting role to others? 
  • Are there opportunities for earning money by offering consultancy on these issues?

Want to know more?

Going in the right direction

Published by: IPSOS-MORI – a large research company with a specialism in public affairs

Date: 2006

Format: PDF

What is it? This article looks at how public bodies are using research to help meet citizens' increasing expectations of public services.

How useful is this? This article looks at several developments in public services including: responsiveness; evidence-based policy making; understanding the public better; and better accountability.  The increasing expectations and uses of evidence are highlighted throughout the article.

Other comments:

Better research for better results

Published by: NCVO

Date: 2007

Format: Web

What is it? This article looks at how VCOs can demonstrate their benefits to funders and donors through a well researched evidence base and includes a case study.

How useful is this? The article outlines the growing pressure for better evidence and highlights how it can be useful for gaining funding and backing up a charity’s other work, such as campaigning.  It discusses how the VCS research base is currently limited and discusses ways of strengthening research such as links with academic institutions and the planned charitable giving research centre.  It suggests that charities should take advantage of funding available for research.

Other comments:

Funding success - NPC’s approach to analysing charities

Published by: New Philanthropy Capital – an organisation providing independent research and tailored advice to donors.

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it? This report describes NPC’s methodology for analysing charities. It also indicates how charities can learn and improve by measuring their own results and how they can use this data as the basis for their fundraising.

How useful is this? This report primarily describes NPC’s methodology for analysing charities, including their Charity Analysis Tool.  However, the appendices, particularly appendix three, contain useful resources for outcome measurement/performance management.

Other comments:

Measuring impact – Case studies of impact assessment in small and medium-sized voluntary organisations

Published by: NCVO

Date: 2003

Format: Web

What is it? The report is aimed at those working in and with voluntary organisations who are interested in assessing the impact of their organisation.

How useful is it? The document reviews the findings and lessons from four different approaches to impact assessment, and ends with recommendations for those wishing to engage in similar work. It is exploratory in nature and does not intend to offer a single or complete solution.

Other comments: The companion to this volume, Measuring Impact – a Guide to Resources , identifies some of these approaches and where to obtain further information on them.

Last updated at 16:07 Fri 25/Mar/11.

Recent comments

Sue's picture


The problems come when the monitoring required as evidence far outweighs the benefits of the funding. last year I dealt with a funding officer who expected the groups who received £2,500 to fill in the same monitoring forms as those receiving £25,000+ She just could not see that our objections were not about monitoring per se but the amount of information she required from some of the smaller groups took up a disproportinate amount of time for the funding they received. Another problem is that groups who have several funders are often required to present the evidence in a number of different formats to meet those funders requirements thus taking up more time in repeating the same info in a number of formats rather than doing the front line work

There is a thread of discussion about this elsewhere in 3s4 Forums:


specifically about Social Return on Investment or SROI. It is in Member News - I am sorry I don't know the best way to link up the discussions! If anyone has answers to my practical concerns about SRoI I would be very glad to hear them.

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