Lessons from Launch Housing's journey to impact reporting

Back to Insights
Lessons from Launch Housing's journey to impact reporting

Written by Marty Bortz | 3rd October 2023

Understanding and reporting on impact is becoming fundamental to the mission of for-purpose organisations. Given this, we are seeing more organisations approach us to assist them to develop an impact report. We also have several clients who have taken on this task themselves. For this latter group, knowing how to develop an impact report can be daunting – particularly if you have never done it before. Launch Housing shared key lessons from their move to impact reporting with Senior Consultant Marty Bortz.

Launch Housing's journey to impact

Think Impact has been working with Launch Housing since 2018. Over that time, we have noticed a profound shift in the organisation’s focus on impact. As part of this, Launch Housing has shifted from a traditional annual report – focused on business performance and financial accountability – and, since 2021, has been reporting annually on its impact.

Over the past two years, Launch Housing has developed an Integrated Impact Measurement Framework which includes a suite of tools that allows them to measure and report on progress against their stated outcomes and mission to end homelessness. The framework includes their Strategy 2020–24 and Theory of Change, an organisation-wide Outcomes Framework, an annual Impact Report aligned to 10 consistent impact measures, and two key themes – families and new beginnings, and health and wellbeing. The impact measures are grouped into three domains:

  • safe and secure housing
  • early interventions
  • scaling change.

These measures were developed through extensive consultations with key stakeholders – clients, staff, partners – and align to the broader Victorian community housing sector and Victorian Government outcomes frameworks. These 10 measures provide a clear way to understand if Launch Housing are achieving their mission and form the basis of their annual Impact Report, a public way to hold themselves accountable for achieving their mission.

Lessons learnt

Launch Housing has now completed two annual impact reports and is working on its third report at the time of this conversation. Through this, the organisation has learnt a thing or two about doing this well. The following are the key lessons Launch Housing learnt as they made the shift from more traditional reporting approaches to reporting on impact.

Start with purpose and audience

Before developing your impact report, consider the purpose of the impact report and who is going to use it and how. Is it something that senior executives will read for decision-making at a higher level and to attract additional funding for initiatives making an impact? Or will program teams across the organisation need to use it to understand what’s working well on the ground? Will it be used for internal purposes, or is it something program partners and funders will want to engage with?

Once you have identified your key audience and purpose you will need to explore ways to tell the broader story of impact. How will you make that story come alive and resonate with its audience? These kinds of questions should be considered at the very start of this journey.

Consider your resources

Crucial here is also the resources you have available to deliver the impact report. A full impact report is a big undertaking and may require input from a range of different people both inside and external to the organisation. You will need to determine what data is going to be most relevant (given your purpose and audience) and ensure you have the appropriate systems set up so you can report in the way you want. If you don’t have this in place already, consider starting small and building on your work.

For Launch Housing, the approach has been quite incremental. The organisation started with what they had already, focusing on some quick wins before moving towards more complex reporting in later years.

Gain organisational support

Getting buy-in from across the organisation will also be crucial to highlighting meaningful impact. There is lots of foundational work to be done to ensure programs and staff can ‘see themselves’ in the report and that it reflects their work. Some early consultations with your internal stakeholders will be useful to understand their needs and how the report might fit in with their efforts.

Use numbers and stories

At Think Impact we often say, ‘No stories without data and no data without stories’. In other words, both numbers and words are important ways of demonstrating your impact to your audience. Think about the story you want to tell and who needs to hear it. For Launch Housing, clients’ stories allowed them to make the numbers come alive and show the real-world impact of their work, ensuring the nuances of the operating context and the broader sector were being holistically considered when interpreting the numbers. It also put people Launch Housing support at the heart of their report.

Start early, work gradually

Moving towards a full impact report consists of several smaller actions. As with any project, break it down into manageable steps. Launch Housing recommends starting early and including regular check ins or milestones (they do internal quarterly reflection sessions and brief reports with program teams) to ensure the organisation can understand its progress and outcomes throughout the year, instead of through one annual impact report. Adjustments to data collection and analysis can then be made along the way based on learnings and interim findings.

Impact and next steps

The move towards impact reporting has produced several significant changes at Launch Housing. The work has been used to support funding bids and advocacy work. In addition, there have been benefits to the way Launch Housing delivers its services. The reporting process and product has allowed staff members to understand the good work that is happening across the organisation. This has produced collaborations, sharing of resources, and more targeted service provision. Finally, it has re-energised staff members who can ‘see themselves’ in the report and are actively participating in Launch Housing’s impact measurement journey.

Since the first report in 2021, Launch Housing has moved to a fully online version and is working collaboratively with its Partnerships and Engagement team who lead the organisation’s social media and online presence. This has enabled the organisation to develop a more accessible impact report, reaching audiences far and wide.

The response to the first online impact report was very positive and Launch Housing is working to build on this success. Keep an eye out for its next Impact Report FY 2022–2023 in November 2023!

Read the latest Launch Housing impact report.

If you are interested in understanding how your organisation might benefit from an impact report, please get in touch.