Impact measurement: How to do it properly

By Elena Mancebo Masa


1. Include M&E as part of the project plan
Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) doesn’t have to be long and intensive. It can be streamlined and built into your programme for more efficiency.

2. Advocate for M&E
You have many more chances of achieving your intended impact if you start evaluating on day one. Include it in your proposals and budgets. Convince funders that M&E is a necessary step for achieving objectives.

3. Budget realistically
M&E needs to be funded as much as other programme activities. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) suggests setting aside 3 to 10% of your operating budget for M&E activities.

4. Establish a baseline
One of the things we try to ascertain through impact measurement is: “Where are our programme beneficiaries now compared to when the programme started?”. Without a baseline it’s very difficult to establish whether any change has actually occurred.

5. Undertake your baseline at the right time
Baseline data is a solid and reliable benchmark only when it’s developed in real time, at the initial stages of a project. Far too often, we’re pushed into developing a retrospective baseline – one that’s reliant on beneficiaries’ memories of the time at which they started receiving services. Not only is it difficult to remember events or conditions in the past, but there’s also a risk that people over- or under-estimate certain factors, such as household expenditures, time taken to do something, or the extent of a stressful event.

6. Establish clear and specific outcome indicators at the outset
Often, our broad and far-reaching objectives require specific outcome indicators that tell us whether they’ve been achieved in the end. These outcome indicators are also the measures that help us quantify and qualify impact. So, defining outcome indicators in the beginning of a project is not only essential for assessing ultimate impact, but also for staying on track during implementation.

7. Face facts
It’s better to understand a real proxy of your impact than to continue blindly hoping that your project is working!

~ For more on impact measurement, Theory of Change and M&E, visit

Inside | Elena Mancebo Masa

She is senior researcher at Creative Consulting & Development Works (, a research, evaluation and communications consultancy servicing the development sector in South Africa and the region. Elena is a seasoned development practitioner with expertise in socio-economic research, monitoring and evaluation. She’s been trained in Social Return on Investment by the SROI Network. She has also consulted with many organisations on how to improve business operations while contributing to a community’s social and economic change. Elena loves to hike in Cape Town’s beautiful mountains. Her latest pastime, however, is motocross bikes, which her two-year-old son chose for her.


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