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Keeping on track

A guide to setting
and using indicators

Background to this guide

Copyright

This guide was commissioned by the
Performance Hub, which is a partnership
of leading infrastructure organisations
working to help third sector organisations
(TSOs) better achieve their missions. TSOs
include charities, voluntary organisations,
community groups and social enterprises.

Unless otherwise indicated, no part of this
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prior written permission from CES. CES will
give sympathetic consideration to requests
from small organisations for permission
to reproduce this publication in whole
or in part but terms upon which such
reproduction may be permitted will remain
at CES’ discretion.

The Performance Hub
The Performance Hub is funded by
Capacitybuilders through the ChangeUp
programme.

© Charities Evaluation Services 2008
ISBN 978-0-9555404-5-5
Published by the Performance Hub
Production management by Tim Wilson
Edited by Wordworks with additional input
from Jean Ellis and Tim Wilson
Designed by Positive2

The Performance Hub is a partnership.
Charities Evaluation Services (CES) is the
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Council for Voluntary Organisations
(NCVO) are joint lead partners.
See www.performancehub.org.uk if you
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Keeping on track
A guide to setting
and using indicators

by Diana Parkinson and Avan Wadia
for the Performance Hub 

Acknowledgements
This guide has been written by Diana
Parkinson and Avan Wadia, who would like
to thank the following people for their help
and input:
Andrea Allez NAVCA (National
Association for Voluntary and Community
Action)
Pauline Buchanan Black The Tree
Council
Sara Burns Triangle Consulting
Rose Challies Lloyds TSB Foundation
Sioned Churchill City Parochial
Foundation
Sally Cupitt Charities Evaluation Services
Jake Eliot Performance Hub
Jean Ellis Charities Evaluation Services
Neil Gardiner Neil Gardiner Consultants
Theresa Gilson Prisoners Abroad
Sarah Jackson Working Families
Liz Jones Communities and Local
Government
Sheila-Jane Malley Children in Need
Richard Piper Performance Hub
Joanna Shepherd Barnet Carers Centre
Michele Stokes Haringey Women’s
Forum
Shaminder Ubhi Ashiana Network
Irna Van der Palen Housing Department,
London Borough of Islington
Andy Williams Enfield Voluntary Action
Tim Wilson Performance Hub 

A number of publications were also helpful
in writing this guide. In particular:
• the Audit Commission’s Local Quality
of Life Indicators – Supporting Local
Communities to Become Sustainable
• Charities Evaluation Services’ publications:
First Steps in Monitoring and Evaluation
Performance Indicators - Use and Misuse:
Evaluation Discussion Paper 5, and
Practical Monitoring and Evaluation: A Guide
for Voluntary Organisations, 2nd edition
• the Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs’ Local Quality of Life
Counts
• Evaluation Support Scotland’s Evaluation
Support Guide 2: Developing and Using
Indicators
• LEAP’s Introducing the LEAP Framework
Model - Developing Outcome Indicators
• the London Housing Foundation’s
Putting Outcomes into Practice: A Guide
to Developing IT-based Outcome Data
Management
• nef’s three booklets:
Communities Count: A Step-by-step Guide to
Community Sustainability Indicators
Communities Count: The LITMUS Test, and
Proving and Improving: A Quality and Impact
Toolkit for Social Enterprise
• Renewal.net’s Soft Indicators: Recognising
Progress
• Save the Children’s Toolkits: A Practical
Guide to Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact
Assessment for Development Work
• the Urban Institute’s Series on Outcome
Management for Nonprofit Organizations.

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Contents
How to use this guide
The language in this guide

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7

Section 1
What are indicators?

8

Definitions
Indicators within the context of planning, monitoring and evaluation

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8

5

13

Output indicators
Outcome indicators
Process indicators
Other types of indicators
Other terminology used in connection with indicators

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Section 4
How to go about setting indicators

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27

Setting
Setting
Setting
Setting

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11

Section 5
Setting output, outcome and process indicators
output indicators
outcome indicators
process indicators
both quantitative and qualitative indicators

9

Section 3
Different types of indicators

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11
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12

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10

Benefits for your organisation or project
Assessing and improving quality
Benchmarking
Meeting the needs of your funders
Motivating staff and users

6

Section 2
Why do you need indicators?

Before you start setting your indicators
Stage 1 Make a list of all possible indicators
Stage 2 Decide on the criteria you will use to
select the right indicators for you
Stage 3 Select your indicators
Stage 4 Pilot your indicators, and review them if necessary

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5

3

Introduction

Continued over page

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Contents continued

Section 6
Gathering information

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When to gather information
How often to gather information
How to gather information
Choosing which data-gathering method to use
Engaging your users
Organising your data-gathering
Key issues in gathering information

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Section 7
Storing information

41

Different options for storing information collected on your indicators
Deciding which option to use
Data protection issues
Tips for storing your data effectively

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Section 8
Making sense of the information

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Analysing data on your indicators
Being open to other information
Getting to the bigger picture
Finding the balance between too much detail and too little

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Section 9
Using the information

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Making the most of your information
Sharing information with your different audiences
Presenting your information
Using your information for learning and development

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Section 10
Reviewing your indicators

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Why bother to review your indicators?
When to review your indicators
How to review your indicators

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Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14

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Summary
Further reading
Sources of support
Glossary

1

Introduction

2
6

*

7

If you want more help on identifying
your aims, outcomes, objectives, outputs
and key processes, see Section 12
Further reading and Section 13 Sources
of support.

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How to use this guide

10

This guide has 10 main sections, which take
you through the different stages involved
in understanding and setting indicators,
gathering and using information on
indicators, and reviewing them. However, it
is also designed so that you can dip in and
out of the sections at whichever points are
most relevant to you.

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11

This guide does not take you through all
the stages of developing a monitoring and
evaluation system. What it does offer is
practical guidance on how to set and use
indicators that will help you to monitor
your work effectively. The guide assumes

that you have already identified what you
have planned to do and why you are doing
it, expressed as aims and objectives. You
will be clear about the important aspects
of your work and service delivery - your
outputs and key processes. You will also
have identified expected outcomes - the
changes you hope will result from your
work.

5

The guide draws on interviews with a
range of organisations whose views and
experiences are used to illustrate key points.
It also builds on existing good practice
guidance and signposts you to sources
of this information. Above all, it aims to
tackle the difficulties people find in setting
and using indicators, and suggests ways of
overcoming these.

4

The guide is intended to help third sector
organisations improve their skills in setting
output, outcome and process indicators.
The Performance Hub recognises that there
is a range of guidance on setting output,
outcome and process indicators contained
in larger publications on monitoring and
evaluation, but there has not yet been a
user-friendly standalone publication on this
topic. This guide is intended to fill that gap.
The guidance is illustrated by good-practice
case studies, and takes account of what
funders and commissioners regard as goodquality indicators.

3

This booklet provides a step-by-step guide to setting and using
indicators. It aims to help you to:
• increase your understanding of how to develop indicators
• look at how you then gather information on these indicators
• make use of the information you gather.

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Understanding
• what indicators are
• why you need them
• different types of indicators

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

Setting indicators

Sections 4 and 5

Gathering information on
your indicators

Section 6

Storing the information on
your indicators

Section 7

Making sense of the information
on your indicators

Section 8

Using the information on
your indicators

Section 9

Reviewing your indicators

Section 10

Section 11 gives a summary of the key
points made in this guide.
Sections 12, 13 and 14 provide a list of
further reading, sources of support, and a
glossary of terms.
The following symbols are used in this
guide. 

*

Signposts you to sources of further
information, either within this guide or
externally.

P

Indicates tips or suggestions.

1

The term user covers a range of people
or target groups and should therefore be
understood as a shorthand term for:
• client
• beneficiary
• target group
• customer
• organisation you are supporting.

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7

Outputs

The activities, services and products
provided by an organisation.

The term stakeholders refers to the
people or groups who are affected by
or who can affect the activities of an
organisation. They include staff, volunteers,
users, customers, suppliers, trustees,
funders, commissioners, donors, purchasers,
investors, supporters and members.

5

Objectives

The activities an organisation or project
plans to carry out in order to achieve its
aims.

The term funders includes funders,
commissioners, donors, purchasers and
investors.

4

Aims

The particular changes or differences the
organisation or project plans to bring
about.

The board of trustees may be called a
trustee committee in some organisations.

3

A number of terms appear throughout
this guide. Although different meanings
are sometimes given to these terms, the
following definitions are the ones that have
been used here.

2

The language in this guide

8
9

Outcomes

The changes, benefits, learning or
other effects that happen as a result of
services and activities provided by an
organisation or project.

10

Processes

How your work is delivered.

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12
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Section 1. What are indicators?
This section sets out what indicators are and how they
can help you with planning, monitoring, evaluating and
reporting on what you do.
Key points
•T 
he indicators discussed in this guide will help you assess the progress your
organisation or project is making.
• Deciding on and setting indicators is part of a broader process of planning,
monitoring and evaluating the work of your organisation or project.
• In order to identify your indicators, you first have to be clear about your aims,
objectives and processes.

Definitions
Indicators are signs or clues that you assess
in order to see how your organisation or
project is delivering its objectives, achieving
its aims and carrying out its work. Simply
put, they are what you use to assess the
progress your organisation or project is
making.
Indicators are… tools for
simplifying, measuring and
communicating important
information. We use indicators
every day in our personal
lives. For example, ‘running a
temperature’ is a simple and
easy way to measure and talk
about poor health.
From: Communities Count: A Step-by-step
Guide to Community Sustainability Indicators,
published by nef

You may have used or come across the
following terms. These are all different ways
of talking about indicators.
• Performance indicators – one of the
most commonly used terms to describe
indicators.
• Key performance indicators (KPIs) – often
used in the private sector and also used
by some medium-sized and large charities 

as well as agencies like the Learning and
Skills Council and programmes such as
Supporting People.
• Planning indicators – used by some
funders, for example the European Union.
• Indicators, signs or measures of success
– used by funders such as BBC Children
in Need and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).

*
For a more detailed explanation of
these terms, see Section 2. Or look at
Jargonbuster on the Performance Hub’s
website at www.performancehub.org.uk

Indicators within the
context of planning,
monitoring and evaluation
The following flow chart shows how
indicators fit within the cycle of planning,
monitoring and evaluating the work of your
organisation or project. In order to identify
your indicators, you first have to be clear
about your aims and objectives.
Indicators are used to assess progress in
the delivery of your work (your outputs
and processes) and in the changes it brings
about (your outcomes).

1
2

Identify the needs of the user group

4

Report and learn from the
results, address gaps identified
and review indicators

3


Clarify the aims and
objectives

Analyse information
gathered on indicators and
make judgements

6

5

Clarify the outputs,
outcomes and
processes

Set indicators

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oacb

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citti
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es

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However, to establish the quality of
response from local health services and
how much difference had been made to
travellers’ health, a number of indicators
were required. For example:
• the extent to which travellers felt local
health services met their needs
• the extent to which travellers felt local
health services were accessible
• the extent to which travellers felt local
health services were sensitive to their
situation
• the extent to which travellers felt the
local health services they had received
had maintained or improved their health.

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tjiev

• t he number of referrals made to local
health services.

10

For the first two questions, the indicators
were quite simple:
• the number of visits its staff made to
sites

9

An organisation working with the local
traveller community to improve access to
family health services wanted to find out:
• how much staff time is spent working
directly with the traveller community
• how much the organisation has sought
to engage local health services in
meeting the health needs of the traveller
community
• how successful this has been
• how much difference it made to the
health of the traveller community.

8

Case example

Gather information on
indicators

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Section 2. Why do you need indicators?
This section looks at why indicators are useful to you
and why some funders require you to set and report
on them.
Key points
• Indicators form the basis of your monitoring and evaluation system. They provide
the information that enables you and your board of trustees to assess the progress
and effects of your work.
• Information from your indicators will help you to identify gaps and improve the
work you are doing.
• Reporting to funders and other stakeholders is easier if you have set up your
indicators to capture the information they want from you.
• Setting and using indicators can also help to motivate staff and users, as it helps
clarify how the work is done and why it is important.

Benefits for your
organisation or project
Monitoring and evaluating what you do is
central to ensuring your organisation or
project is effective and efficient. Indicators
are the foundation of a robust monitoring
and evaluation system. They help you to:
• show whether you have achieved what
you set out to achieve
• find out how your users have benefited
from your work
• identify any gaps in your work
• improve the work of your organisation
or project.
Without indicators it is difficult to know
what information you need to gather
and you might not assess progress in a
consistent or objective way. Indicators give
you something concrete to track, so that
you know you have achieved what you set
out to achieve.

10

Indicators provide the best
feedback an organisation can
get on what is working and
what’s not working.
Neil Gardiner, Neil Gardiner Consultants

Case example
An organisation working to improve
the local environment in a particular
borough had not set indicators for
assessing their outreach work with local
community centres. As a result, they had
not collected any information on which
community centres their volunteers had
visited. During a discussion at a monthly
volunteers’ meeting, it emerged that some
of their volunteers had been working in
areas outside the borough for almost six
months.
The organisation realised that it needed to
set indicators against which to collect basic
information, such as the number of visits
each volunteer made, which wards in each
borough they were visiting, and the results
of their outreach work.

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9

As well as helping your organisation’s
learning, funders increasingly expect
organisations they fund or contract with to
monitor the delivery of their work using
indicators:

However you are funded, your funders
need to be convinced that your organisation
or project is delivering the outcomes
and changes you have agreed to. Having
indicators:
• demonstrates to your funder that you
have thought about how you are going to
assess your work and its effects
• makes it easier to write clear and
comprehensive funding applications and
bids for contracted work, thus increasing
your chance of success
• enables you to report back to different
funders more easily – allowing them
to focus on the key information that is
relevant to them.

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Meeting the needs of your
funders

Indicators underpin each one of these
initiatives and are becoming increasingly
important to TSOs that wish to be involved.

7

Another way in which indicators can be
useful to you is in helping you to compare
your work with the work of others.
This is often known as benchmarking.
Benchmarking is about systematically
comparing inputs, processes, outputs
and outcomes with others, in order to
learn how well you are doing, identify
good practice and highlight areas for
improvement. Having indicators allows you
to identify common ground for carrying out
benchmarking exercises with others.

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Benchmarking

5

These indicators can be set out in a
recognised quality assurance system such as
PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System
for Small Organisations, published by CES) or
Investors in People (www.investorsinpeople.
co.uk), or informally through developing your
own quality action plan.

4

For example, an organisation or project
monitoring the quality of its service delivery
might set indicators for:
• the amount of time they take to respond
to enquiries
• the number of complaints they receive.

3

Indicators can be used to help you to learn
about the quality of your work, as they form
the basis of any quality management system.
They enable you to report on your work in
terms of:
• value for money or cost-effectiveness
• user satisfaction
• assessment against quality standards.

• L ocal authorities are required by central
government to use and report on Best
Value Performance Indicators, which
are now a central plank of local
government’s approach to improving its
own effectiveness and efficiency. For
more information, see the Local
Government Performance website at
www.bvpi.gov.uk
• National policy frameworks such as Every
Child Matters are becoming increasingly
outcome-focused. Every Child Matters sets
out five key outcomes and has defined a
set of indicators for each one. For more
information, see the Every Child Matters
website at www.everychildmatters.gov.uk
• National programmes such as Supporting
People provide detailed sets of indicators
that require the third sector organisations
(TSOs) it funds to report on. For more
information, see the Supporting People
website at www.spkweb.org.uk
• Local Area Agreements set out the
government’s priorities for each local
area and are supported by indicators. For
more information, see the Communities
and Local Government’s website at www.
communities.gov.uk

2

Assessing and improving
quality

Case example

Motivating staff and users

An organisation running a number of arts
education projects was asked by one of
its funders to report on how it had used
their grant money. As they had not set any
indicators for their work, the organisation
had to ask one of their volunteers to
count up the number of courses they had
run by searching through the office diary,
but they had no information on how many
people had attended the courses or how
the courses had helped those people.

Identifying the key indicators of progress or
change, and those elements of your work
that are central to achieving that change,
can be encouraging to all those involved
in an organisation. At a basic level, people
will feel supported if they can show how
many people come through their doors or
the quality of what they have done. And if
workers and users are able to recognise and
record when change takes place, this can be
empowering and energising.

A year later, having gone through a
process of clarifying their aims and
objectives and setting indicators for these,
they were able to report exactly:
• how many courses they had run
• how many people had attended the
courses (as well as their gender, age and
ethnic origin)
• how many people had found the courses
useful
• how many people had gone on to seek
further volunteering opportunities in the
arts.

People in the voluntary sector
work hard but don’t always
know what they are achieving.
Indicators are a useful planning
tool which allow for reflection
and for improving performance.
Sioned Churchill, City Parochial Foundation

National indicators give us the
bigger picture using a consistent
data set, which means that
comparisons can be made across
the country.
Liz Jones, Supporting People

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1

Section 3. Different types of indicators

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3

This section looks at the different types of indicators
commonly used by organisations in monitoring their work.
It will help you to work out which of these different types
of indicators you wish to identify and help you to interpret
what other people mean when they talk about indicators.

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Key points

5

•D 
ifferent types of indicators can be used to assess different aspects of your work.
This guide concentrates on output indicators, outcome indicators and process
indicators.
• Some people use different terms to describe indicators. Understanding some of
these terms can help you work with other people.

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14

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Organisations will very often have an idea
of what they expect to achieve in relation
to outputs. These can be expressed as
targets. Targets are discussed in Section 4.

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A refugee organisation seeks to improve
the overall quality of life for its users.
One of its objectives is to provide English
language courses and computer training.
Its outputs are therefore training courses
and handouts. Its output indicators are:
• the number and type of training courses
it delivers
• the number and profile of people
attending the courses
• the number and type of handouts
distributed during the courses.

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This section also gives a brief explanation
of some of the other common types of
indicators and the terminology that is
applied to them.

Case example

9

In this section, we focus on:
• output indicators
• outcome indicators
• process indicators.

Output indicators are measures or signs
that demonstrate the amount and type of
work that you do and that show progress
towards meeting your objectives. They help
you to answer questions such as:
What activities have we carried out?
Who has benefited from our work?

8

These indicators are important in
monitoring and evaluation and may also be
formally incorporated in an organisation’s
quality assurance system.

Output indicators

7

An indicator is a tool for measuring
progress. Indicators can be developed to
assess several aspects of your organisation’s
or project’s work:
• your progress in delivering your
objectives (your outputs)
• your progress in achieving your aims
(your outcomes)
• the long-term or broader effects of your
work (your impact)
• the resources involved (your inputs)
• the delivery of your work (your
processes).

Outcome indicators
Outcome indicators are measures or signs
that show how well you are achieving your
outcomes. They help you assess the changes
that take place as a result of your work, and
show progress towards meeting your aims.
They enable you to compare what you
have achieved with what you planned to
achieve and so help you to learn about
what is working and what is not –
and how to become more effective.

Case example
An organisation providing temporary, safe,
supportive housing for women who are
experiencing domestic violence aims to
help women in the refuge to live more
independently. One of the outcomes for
this aim is that women’s independent
living skills improve. Outcome indicators
for this are:
• the level of women’s budgeting skills
• how frequently women cook for
themselves
• how often women travel independently.
By collecting information on these
indicators when women arrive at the
refuge and again when they are preparing
to leave, the organisation hopes to show
it is achieving its outcome of improving
women’s independent living skills.
It is helpful to have an understanding of
what success will look like or how it might
vary. This can be useful when negotiating
with funders and when analysing results.

Case example
One of the outcomes for an organisation
working to improve their local
neighbourhood is increased community
action.
Indicators for this outcome include:
• the number of community meetings held

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• t he number of new community-led
projects set up
• the number of campaigns initiated.

Process indicators
Process indicators provide information on
how well you are carrying out your work.
For example, process indicators can be set
for the following.
• Waiting times – How long did our users
wait before receiving a service?
• User satisfaction – Did our users like the
way the services were delivered?
• Stakeholder consultation – How much did
we consult with users or stakeholders?
• Meeting our deadlines – Did we produce
reports on time?
• Efficiency – Did we use our resources
efficiently?

Case example
An organisation providing support to
other organisations wants to monitor how
much it involves them in service design
and planning. Its process indicators are:
• the number and type of opportunities
provided for consultation
• the extent of involvement of its user
organisations
• the extent to which user organisations’
views are acted on.

Other types of indicators
Input indicators
Input indicators assess the amount of
resources that are used to deliver your
work. For example, they might assess
the number of staff and volunteer hours
involved, and the financial cost of carrying
out your work.

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Quality indicators can be process indicators,
output indicators or outcome indicators.

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Quality standards, and the indicators against
which progress towards meeting the
standard is measured, can be set out in a
recognised off-the-shelf quality assurance
system such as PQASSO (Practical Quality
Assurance System for Small Organisations,
published by CES), or can be set internally
by the organisation itself.

10

The basis of any quality assurance system is
a set of quality indicators. These are criteria
that an organisation uses in order to find
out whether it meets an agreed level of
performance, or quality standard.

9

Quality indicators
A quality assurance system is a formal
management system an organisation can use
to strengthen the organisation. It is intended
to raise standards of work and make sure
everything is done consistently. A quality
assurance system sets out expectations that
a quality organisation should meet.

8

Key performance indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) – also
known as key success indicators (KSIs) – is
an all-embracing term used to describe
the high-level indicators that help an
organisation assess its progress towards its
overall aims. For example, the Sport England
programme has defined some of its KPIs for
individual sports as:

For more information on key
performance indicators, see What is
a key performance indicator? at www.
businesslink.gov.uk in the section on
Setting business targets.

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You can link the information you get
from input and output indicators to assess
efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Without
understanding the resources you have put
into a project, you cannot know how costeffective it has been.

*

6

Input indicators are particularly useful
for assessing the set-up time involved
in a new project or service – for
example, the amount of time spent on
recruitment.

5

P

Some organisations use key performance
indicators that are set by their funders.
Others find it helpful to decide for
themselves which key indicators (or KPIs)
can help them report effectively to their
stakeholders.

4

Input indicators are an important part of
the picture and are often required by
funders in order to assess value for money
and to ensure their grant has been spent
effectively. They also provide important
information for your own organisation,
enabling you to keep an eye on how much
time is spent delivering a particular service,
or how much an activity has cost. Input
indicators are therefore closely linked to
process indicators, as they help you to
understand what is involved in running the
service or activity.

KPI 1 – T 
he number of qualified and
currently active coaches and
teachers delivering instruction in
the sport
KPI 2 – The number of active accredited
clubs within the sport.

3

An organisation campaigning against child
poverty has the following input indicators:
• the cost of producing a campaign leaflet
• the number of volunteers involved in the
campaign
• the amount of administration time spent
supporting the campaign.

2

Case example

Example of a process quality
indicator
‘Managers work with the Board to
strengthen the organisation and lead the
development of activities and plans.’
From PQASSO third edition (Quality area
3 Leadership and management, level 2).
Example of an output quality
indicator
‘Your services are easily accessible to
everyone.’
From Charter Mark (Indicator 3.1.1).
Example of an outcome quality
indicator
‘As a result of [local infrastructure
organisation] activity, the local voluntary
and community sector has increased
knowledge, skills and qualifications in
workforce.’
From the NAVCA Performance Standards
for Local Infrastructure Organisations
(Indicator 2.2).

*
For more information on quality, see:
• First Steps in Quality
• P roving and Improving: A Quality and
Impact Toolkit for Social Enterprise
See Section 12 for details of these
publications.
See also:
• Charter Mark at www.cabinetoffice.
gov.uk/chartermark.aspx
• Investors in People at www.
investorsinpeople.co.uk
• NAVCA Performance Standards,
National Association for Voluntary
and Community Action at www.navca.
org.uk
• PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance
System for Small Organisations),
published by Charities Evaluation
Services. (For details see www.ces-vol.
org.uk)

16

Quality of life indicators
These can also be seen as a type
of outcome indicator as they assess
change in the aspects of life that make
life sustainable. This may be at an
environmental, community or individual
level. Many community organisations and
local authorities are using the term ‘quality
of life indicators’ to assess sustainable
development and neighbourhood renewal.
Some examples of quality of life indicators
are:
• the number of days when air pollution is
moderate or higher than a given standard
• the level of crime
• the proportion of people of working age
who are in work.

*
See:
• L ocal Quality of Life Counts. A
Handbook for a Menu of Local
Indicators of Sustainable Development
• Local Quality of Life Indicators
– Supporting Local Communities to
Become Sustainable.
See Section 12 for details of these
publications.

Social Return on Investment (SROI)
indicators
Social Return on Investment indicators
help organisations to show the value
of their work economically, socially and
environmentally. This information is then
translated into financial terms to reflect the
organisation’s overall contribution to society.
The SROI method has particular relevance
to social enterprises.
An example of indicators for measuring
SROI for a social enterprise providing
training and employment opportunities to
people with and recovering from mental ill
health could be:
• the number of people who return to fulltime work

1
10
11
12

Quantitative indicators and
qualitative indicators
Output, outcome and process indicators can
be quantitative, qualitative or both:
• Quantitative indicators count numbers,
such as the number of people who buy
a book, or the number of people who
move into independent accommodation
after leaving a hostel. They help you to
answer questions such as ‘How many?’,
‘How much?’ or ‘How often?’
• Qualitative indicators are ones that help
you to understand more about how a
change or process has happened. They
gather information in descriptive ways
and help you to answer questions such as
‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ Qualitative indicators
can be used to assess observable ‘facts’
or more subjective issues around people’s
perceptions and experiences, such as how
confident someone feels about taking on
a new job.

9

Although the project cannot claim that
any decrease in the number of teenage
pregnancies can be attributed solely to
their work, they can show that their work
in increasing young women’s awareness of
safer sex has contributed to achieving this
impact.

You may also come across some of the
following terms that are used in connection
with indicators.

8

An outcome for a project providing
sex education for young women is an
increased awareness of safer sex. The
impact of their work in the longer
term might be assessed by using an
indicator such as ‘the number of teenage
pregnancies per year in the local area’, to
show whether there is a decrease or not.

Other terminology used in
connection with indicators

7

Case example

6

Impact indicators
The term ‘impact indicators’ is often
applied to indicators which demonstrate
change over a longer period of time or at a
broader level. Impact indicators can reflect
changes in policy, in practice or in society,
or long-term and fundamental change in an
individual’s life.

For more information, see:
• P roving and Improving: A Quality and
Impact Toolkit for Social Enterprise
• Assessing Impact – Evaluation
Discussion Paper 9.
See Section 12 for details of these
publications.

5

For more information on SROI
indicators, see Social Return on
Investment: Valuing What Matters. See
Section 12 for details.

*

4

*

3

Gathering information on these indicators
helps demonstrate how the project
contributes to society by reducing the
amount of welfare payments claimed,
increasing the amount of tax generated
from their employment, and reducing the
costs of NHS treatment.

However, there are differences of opinion
about the distinction between ‘outcome
indicators’ and ‘impact indicators’ and you
may find that some people use the terms
interchangeably.

2

• the number of people who no longer
need intensive healthcare.

13
14

17

Case example
A project to increase the use of recycled
goods might set quantitative indicators
such as:
• the number of times people contacted
them about recycling
• the number of goods that were brought
in for recycling.
They might also set qualitative indicators
such as:
• the type of enquiries made
• what people thought of the recycled
goods.

Soft and hard indicators
The terms ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ are sometimes
applied to outcomes in order to distinguish
between outcomes which can be clearly
defined and counted, such as getting
a qualification or setting up a business
(hard outcomes), and those that relate
to people’s perceptions and behaviour,
such as improved confidence, or increased
communication skills (soft outcomes).
In turn, these terms are sometimes then
applied to indicators. Hard indicators are
ones that define and count the
achievement of a hard outcome – for
example, the number of people getting
qualifications, or the number of new
businesses set up. The term ‘soft indicator’
is used to assess progress towards a soft
outcome – for example, the number of
people feeling more confident in their skills,
or the extent to which members of a local
community feel safe at night.
It is sometimes mistakenly assumed
that hard indicators are better or more
important than soft indicators. This is not
necessarily the case. Soft and hard indicators
can both be used to assess progress
towards outcomes.

18

*
For more information on soft indicators,
see:
• A Practical Guide to Measuring Soft
Outcomes and Distance Travelled
• Soft Indicators: Recognising Progress.
See Section 12 for details of these
publications.

Direct and proxy indicators
Indicators are sometimes referred to as
either ‘direct’ or ‘proxy’ indicators.
A ‘direct’ indicator is an indicator that
provides direct evidence of the activity
or change it is designed to measure. For
example, a direct indicator for an outcome
of increased funding is the number of
funding grants received.
A ‘proxy’ indicator is one that can be used
to assess change or progress where no
direct indicators are possible or appropriate.
For example, a social enterprise providing
training for long-term unemployed people
might identify ‘increased motivation’ as
one of the outcomes for its users. As
the indicator ‘levels of motivation’ is not
something that can be directly assessed, it
can therefore use ‘proxy’ indicators such as
‘time-keeping’ or ‘attendance levels’, which
will help show whether their users have
become more motivated.

1

Section 4. How to go about
setting indicators

2
3
4

This section takes you through the stages of setting
your indicators and looks at some of the issues you may
have to address along the way. It considers when to set
indicators, whom you should involve and how to go
about it. It also discusses the pros and cons of using other
people’s indicators.
Key points

5
6

• Select indicators which show progress most clearly, are practical to assess, are a valid
measure of your work, and are important and relevant to your stakeholders.
• Try to think as widely and creatively as possible, so that you produce indicators that
reflect key areas of your work.
• Involve your stakeholders where possible and appropriate. This includes users,
frontline staff, volunteers, trustees and funders.
• Pilot your indicators, and be prepared to change them if they don’t work for you.

7

Setting indicators: the stages involved

Think up your own
indicators.

Draw on standard
indicators, or indicators
that others are using.

8

Stage 1: Make a list of all possible indicators
Use indicators that are
set by your funders.

9

Stage 2: Decide on the criteria you will use to select the
right indicators for you

10

Stage 3: Select your indicators

11

Stage 4: Pilot your indicators, and review them
if necessary

12
13
14

19

Before you start setting
your indicators
When to think about setting indicators
In Section 1, we looked at how indicators
fit into the cycle of planning, monitoring
and evaluating your organisation or project.
You will need to think about setting output,
outcome and process indicators:
• when you are drawing up your plans or
reviewing the aims and objectives for your
organisation or project
• when you are designing a new project or
service
• if you are setting your own quality
standards
• when you have received new funding
• when you are setting up monitoring
systems in order to carry out an
evaluation of your organisation or project.
You should only start setting your output,
outcome and process indicators when you
are absolutely clear about your aims and
objectives and your planned outputs and
outcomes. If you try to set indicators
before this stage, you will end up with
indicators that may not show the progress
you are making towards your aims and
objectives, or may not do justice to the
work you have done.
Who to involve
Because indicators are about measuring
progress and showing success, it is very
important that you consult with and involve
a range of stakeholders wherever possible
and appropriate.
• Involving users in setting indicators gives
you a perspective that you may not
necessarily have yourself, even if you
think you are a user-led organisation. It
allows users to determine what progress
or success looks like or feels like for
them. However, you will need to take
care not to use too much jargon, as
this can put users off getting involved.
For example, instead of saying ‘What
indicators should we be using?’ ask them
‘How do we know if we are doing
something well?’

20

• It is important to get the perspective of
your frontline staff on what they see as
progress or success, as they have a unique
perspective from seeing the changes in
users at close hand and on a regular basis.
• It is also important to motivate and
recognise the experience of volunteers
who give their time to the organisation or
project.
• Trustees can give another different
perspective because they are often further
removed from the everyday business of
your work and can step back and see
things from a broader point of view. They
will want to ensure that your indicators
also reflect the strategic direction of the
organisation.
• You may think that it is not the role of
funders to be involved in setting your
indicators, but it can be very useful to
consult with them once you have clearly
identified your indicators. Even if your
funders need only a simple report, it is
useful to check that they are happy with
the way in which you are assessing your
progress.
Try and start with what
motivates the organisation and
its staff in their work – what
difference do they think they are
making and how do they know
that?
Sioned Churchill, City Parochial Foundation

Getting help and support
You may find that external support
can be helpful in the process of setting
your indicators. Some organisations use
consultants or make contact with other
organisations working in the same field to
help get ideas of which indicators work well.

*
See Section 13 for more information on
where to get further help and support.

1

*
See:
• nef’s Sample Indicators Bank at http://
www.proveandimprove.org/new/
meaim/samplendicators.php
• the Audit Commission and IDeA’s
Library of Local Performance
Indicators at www.local-pi-library.gov.
uk
• Co-operatives UK’s Key Performance
Indicators Project at www.
cooperatives-uk.coop (This is
accessible only in the members’
section of the website.)

7
8
9

There are advantages and disadvantages to
using standard indicators.

12
13
14

21

11

Advantages
• Using standard indicators can make setting
indicators quicker and easier. You can
draw from other people’s thinking and
take a shortcut in setting indicators for
your organisation.
• It can be cheaper, as it can save you the
time and resources involved in training
and in consulting with your stakeholders.
• It can make it easier to benchmark
yourself against other organisations.

10

From: Introducing the LEAP Framework
Model – Developing Outcome Indicators,
published by LEAP

6

Indicators that are developed
using information from
different perspectives and from
several different sources, or in
different ways, help us be more
confident that we understand
what change has taken place.

Drawing on standard indicators, or
indicators that others are using
Another way of setting indicators is to
look at those that other organisations have
developed. Many organisations do this
by looking at standard sets of indicators,
sometimes known as ‘indicator banks’,
‘indicator libraries’, ‘off-the-shelf indicator
systems’, ‘indicator baskets’ or ‘indicator
menus’.

5

Be creative and think as widely as possible,
so that you produce indicators that reflect
different aspects of your work and the
effects it may have.

See Communities Count – A Step-bystep Guide to Community Sustainability
Indicators. See Section 12 for details.

4

Thinking up your own indicators
This involves bringing together a group of
stakeholders (for example, staff, volunteers,
users, trustees and funders) to come
up with a list of possible indicators. For
example, you could write all your outputs,
outcomes and processes on big sheets of
paper and then compile a list of all the
indicators you can come up with for
each one.

*

3

Most commonly, organisations set indicators
for their outputs and outcomes. Some
organisations also set them for measuring
process (the way they are carrying out their
work) or inputs (the resources they put
into carrying out their activities). So, it is a
good idea to start by making a list of all the
possible indicators for each area that you
wish to monitor so that you can then select
the best ones for you. You may want to do
one or more of the following.
• Think up your own indicators.
• Draw on standard indicators, or
indicators that others are using.
• Use indicators that are set by your
funders.

2

Stage 1. Make a list of all
possible indicators

• It can help to show how your work links
in to wider initiatives and contributes to
social change.
• It can help you express the change you
are making in a way that the funder
values.
Disadvantages
• Standard indicators may not be specific to
your user group and their unique needs
(although they may be useful for process
issues such as volunteer turnover or cost
ratios for training).
• If you use standard indicators, you are
less likely to involve your stakeholders in
setting your indicators and so they may
not understand where the indicators have
come from.
• Staff may feel less motivated to use
standard indicators, and funders may
not feel that the indicators reflect their
priorities.

P
Standard indicators taken from indicator
menus or baskets can be useful to
stimulate ideas, although you might want
to look at these after you have worked
up your own. Looking at standard
indicators can help you to see indicators
that you had not thought about, or
ones that you have missed. It may also
stimulate discussion that enables you to
clarify your own indicators and be more
confident about the ones you have
chosen.

Using indicators that are set by
your funders
Your funders may have set indicators that
they require you to monitor and report on,
which means that some of your indicators
are non-negotiable and must be included,
along with the ones you have set for your
organisation.

22

P
Even if you have non-negotiable
indicators, you may still decide to gather
information on other indicators for your
organisation’s own learning. This may
also help your funders to understand
your organisation better, and help them
see the value of the indicators you have
identified.

Stage 2. Decide on the
criteria you will use to
select the right indicators
for you
Once you have identified all your possible
indicators, you will probably have a very
long list! A crucial stage in setting your
indicators is to select the ones that are
going to be most useful to you.
What makes a good set of indicators?
You want to select indicators that:
• s how progress most clearly.
Does the indicator clearly link to your
output, outcome or process, and does
it demonstrate that it is being delivered/
achieved?
• are practical to assess. For example,
do staff have the time and skills needed to
gather this information?
• are a valid measure of your work.
To be useful, an indicator must really be a
test of what you want to find out. It must
also allow the consistent collection of
information.
• are responsive to change. In
particular, outcome indicators need to
reflect the different ways in which changes
can happen. If you simply set one ‘Yes/
No’ indicator (such as whether users
achieve a specific outcome), progress
towards achieving the ‘Yes’ may not be
captured. Instead, think about using a
number of ‘Yes/No’ indicators together to
give a picture of progress.

1

Measurable

The data for an indicator needs to be collectable – for example,
through forms, interviews, user records or surveys.

Simple

The indicator needs to be clear and direct enough to be
understood by all stakeholders.

11

Case example

10

Having worked out how you will select
your indicators, you now need to set about
applying your chosen criteria to the list you
drew up in Stage 1. It is a good idea to

discuss or perhaps score each indicator for
how well it fits your criteria. See the case
example below. This will help you to rank
your indicators so that you end up with the
ones that are most useful to you and that
you can realistically collect information for.

9

Stage 3. Select your
indicators

8

It is only worth measuring what people care about and is relevant
to them.

7

Important

6

Indicators inform action. If you can’t imagine what to do with the
information on the indicator once you have information on it, it is
not action-focused.

5

Action-focused

4

You can also use criteria such as those set
out in nef’s guide Prove It: Measuring the
Effect of Neighbourhood Renewal on Local
People (see Section 12), which goes by the
acronym AIMS:

3

•a 
re sensitive to your user group. Be
careful not to set indicators that require
users to provide information that they
might not be willing or able to give you.

2

•a 
re realistic. Some indicators are very
difficult to gather information on – for
example, rates of depression or teenage
pregnancy. If you need to gather this
information to put your work in context,
it might be more practical to refer to
other people’s research or to national
statistics.
• are important and relevant to
your stakeholders. For example, will
your funders accept the indicators you
have identified?

Number of women
returning to work

Level of women’s
knowledge about
employment
opportunities

Important

Measurable

Simple

aaa

aaa

aa

aaa

a

aa

a

a

13

Action-focused

12

Indicator

a Low score aa Medium score aaa High score

14

23

Getting the right mix of indicators
It’s good to have at least one indicator
for each of the outputs, outcomes and
processes that you wish to monitor.
Without this you cannot guarantee being
able to report on progress against that
output, outcome or process. Having more
than one indicator allows you to gather
richer information on what has occurred.
Although there are no firm rules on the
number of indicators you should have, there
is a balance to be struck between having too
many or too few.
If you have too many indicators:
• you may find that it is difficult to gather,
record and analyse information on all of
them
• your users may get fed up being asked
too many questions
• your staff and volunteers may get fed
up with having to gather too much
information
• you may end up with so much
information that you cannot identify the
important trends or gaps.
On the other hand, having too few
indicators means that:
• you may not gather enough information
on your work, and so you may not be
able to show the amount and value of
the work you are doing
• you may not be able to capture the full
range of your outcomes – you may simply
miss some of the changes that happen.
However, getting the right indicators
for your organisation or project is not
only about the number of indicators you
select. Try to have a mix of indicators
for your outputs, outcomes or processes
that will give you the depth and quality of
information that you want. This may
include indicators that are:
• qualitative and quantitative
• direct and proxy
• soft and hard.
See Section 3 for an explanation of
these terms.
24

Case example
An organisation working with pregnant
women in prison developed a set of
indicators for monitoring its work. It
wanted to show that the women it
supported:
• had better experiences of pregnancy
and birth
• had healthy babies
• had access to further support.
It came up with a long list of indicators
which included:
• the women’s views of their experience
of pregnancy and birth
• the amount of pain relief the women
received during childbirth
• the amount of illnesses the babies had in
the first year of their lives
• the amount of times the women received
support from other organisations.
However, in order to have a good set of
indicators, the organisation realised the
following.
• It also needed to count the number of
women it helped.
• Gathering information on the amount of
pain relief used was going to be difficult
and didn’t show whether the women had
good or bad experiences.
• The organisation was not usually in
contact with women for a whole year
after the birth, so it could not record
the amount of illnesses the babies had in
their first year. However, it could assess
rates of breastfeeding in the first few
months (and its efforts to support this)
and link those findings to research about
the benefits of breastfeeding on babies’
health.
• It would be better to count the
number of referrals it made to other
organisations rather than the number
of times the women went on to receive
support from them.

1
4

Using the right language will help you to
assess what is going on, whether negative
or positive, and can help you to capture
unexpected occurrences.

5

P
Neutral terms that you may find helpful
to use when writing your indicators
include:
• the level of...
• the extent to which...
• the type of...
• the number of...
• the ability to...
• the ratio of...
• the rate of...
• the percentage of...

6
7
8

Start small, especially if you
don’t currently do any outcomes
monitoring at all. Perhaps start
with monitoring indicators on
a small number of key outcomes
and then get more comprehensive
later, if necessary.

Targets are a way of expressing the
level you wish to achieve in relation to
your outputs, outcomes and processes,
and against which you can assess your
performance. They can be helpful to you in
planning and delivering your work, and in
some cases they may be required by your
funders.

14

25

13

How to express your indicators
Language is very important when expressing
indicators. Since they are a tool for
assessment, they don’t express change

Targets can be set for output indicators
– for example:
• the number of new projects your
organisation wishes to set up
• the number of people you hope to reach
• the number of activities you wish to
provide.

12

Sally Cupitt, Charities Evaluation Services

11

Adding targets to your indicators
Once you have identified the indicators you
want to use, you may also wish to (or need
to) add targets to those indicators.

10

For more information on data gathering,
see Section 6.

9

*

3

A balance of indicators will also allow you
to check the validity of the information.
It can be helpful, for example, to gather
information from internal and external
sources.

– they are neutral. For example, if one of
your outcomes is ‘Users become more
independent’, an indicator would be ‘the
level of users’ independence’ – that is, you
assess their levels of independence. You
hope that the level of independence will go
up over time but you also need to find out
if it stays the same or decreases.

2

You may also want to have a balance of
indicators so that gathering information on
your indicators is cost-effective and timely.
•C 
ost-effectiveness. Ideally, you want
the data gathering to place the least
possible burden on your organisation’s or
project’s resources. Think about selecting
indicators on which you are already
gathering information, or ones that can
be easily integrated into your existing
systems. However, there may be some
cases where you feel the information
a particular indicator would provide is
worth the extra effort.
• Timeliness. Some indicators will require
information to be gathered on a weekly
or even daily basis, whereas others
require it to be gathered only quarterly
or annually. You will want to ensure that
the gathering of information fits with
your work processes and supports your
organisational management and reporting.

Targets can also be set for outcome
indicators – for example:
• the percentage of users who remain in
their new homes six months after
moving on from a hostel
• the percentage of users who stop using
drugs within a one-year period.

Case example
An organisation working to enable black
and minority ethnic (BME) communities
to become more involved in the design
and delivery of local services had the
following indicators for their work:
• the number of training courses they ran
• the amount of information they
distributed on consultation exercises
• the level of BME involvement in the
planning of local services and initiatives.
They then added targets to those
indicators to show what they were aiming
to do and achieve over the next 12
months:
• five training courses delivered
• distribution of 12 newsletters containing
information on forthcoming consultation
events
• BME input into the design or delivery of
at least three local services.

Applying targets to your indicators may be
important if you are wishing to monitor
your work against an internal or external
set of standards – for example, an
agreed level of service or organisational
performance that should be met each
and every time. There is also a range of
recognised quality assurance systems with
defined sets of standards that organisations
use to assess the quality of their work.

26

Case example
One of the NAVCA Performance
Standards states that: ‘The organisation
assists local voluntary and community
organisations to function more effectively
and deliver quality services to their users,
members or constituents.’ In order to
monitor how they fulfil this standard,
organisations will need to have indicators
such as:
• the number of newsletters they produce
and distribute per year
• the number of times the organisation
consults with its existing and potential
membership to ensure that services are
appropriate and accessible
• the amount and type of information
and support it provides on financial and
administrative management.

*
For information on different quality
assurance systems, see Getting Ready
for Quality: Learning from Experience –
A Practical Approach. See Section 12
for details.
Bear in mind that, when you first set targets,
it is hard to know what level to pitch them
at and therefore it may take a while before
you have a good idea of what is realistic.
Targets and funders
It is important to negotiate with your
funders to ensure you build a monitoring
and reporting system which gives you
information that is meaningful for them and
useful to you. If your funders insist on your
organisation or project measuring indicators
for targets that are unfeasible for the size or
scope of your work, it is worth questioning
with your funder:
• whether the use of this indicator is
inappropriate for what you do
• whether the indicator is relevant but the
target is too ambitious.

1
7

*
See Section 6 for more on gathering
information on your indicators.

11
12
13
14

27

10

4. Input the information that
is generated.
To input the information, you may need
to make changes to your existing data
management system (for example, your
database). Or you may need to use an
interim system (for example, a simple Excel
spreadsheet) during the pilot phase before
moving on to something more permanent.
During the piloting, data on your indicators
can be entered as it is collected, enabling
you to check how feasible it is to record
and input information on the indicators you
are piloting.

9

3. Gather the information.
Ask your staff and/or volunteers to use the
data-gathering methods in their work over
a reasonable period of time (for example,
three to six months). This should allow
for gathering enough information on your
indicators to give you a meaningful set of
data to work with. It will also enable you to
assess how well the data-gathering methods
work.

8

1. Identify the critical set of
indicators to pilot.
Even after prioritising your indicators you
may still have quite a long list that you wish
to assess. In this case you could select just
a few of these for piloting. This will enable
you to test them out before committing to
the full set. Selection could be based on
the following.
• Those that are the most important and
useful for your organisation or project.
• Those for which it is easy to gather
information. This is also helpful if you

6

Piloting your indicators involves the
following steps:

5

Once you have prioritised your indicators, it
is a good idea to pilot them. It is important
to do this to ensure that they work for you
and that they give you the information you
need. Piloting enables you to check that:
• the indicators are useful
• the data-gathering methods work and
are feasible and sustainable in the longer
term
• you can store and manage the
information generated by piloting.

4

Stage 4. Pilot your
indicators, and review them
if necessary

2. Consider how you are going to
gather information.
Having identified a set of indicators to
pilot, you will then want to look at the
existing data-gathering methods used in
your organisation or project to find out if
they include questions that will give you the
information you need. If they don’t already
do this, you will need either to add new
questions or to consider introducing new
data-gathering methods.

3

Thinking ahead
It is good practice to anticipate information
that may be useful to your organisation
or your funders in the future. This does
not mean adding in lots of extra indicators
but thinking ahead to get better, smarter
information so that you will be able to learn
more about what works and communicate
your success more powerfully.

want to test the process of gathering and
using your indicator information.
• Those that are new to your organisation.
This will help you to test out new datagathering methods or ones that you have
modified, and will also help you to check
that the new indicators are meaningful
and useful.

2

Where funders set targets, it is important
to clarify whether failure to reach those
targets will be treated as ‘useful learning’ or
whether it will affect your future funding.
When setting your own targets at the start
of funding, try to be as realistic as possible
when thinking about what you can achieve.

*
See Section 7 for more information on
storing information on your indicators.
5. Analyse the information you have
gathered.
At the end of your pilot phase, you will
want to analyse the information that has
been gathered. This involves looking at what
the information shows you in terms of the
outcomes, outputs or processes that your
indicators relate to.

*
See Section 8 for more information
on analysing the information on your
indicators.
6. Review the pilot.
You may like to bring a group of your
stakeholders together to review the process
of gathering the information on your pilot
indicators and the quality of information
produced. The group could include
representatives of frontline staff, volunteers
and trustees, for example. Your discussion
could cover questions like:
• Will this information be useful to our
funders?
• Does this information help us in planning
and carrying out our work?
• Were the data-gathering methods easy to
use and appropriate to our users?

28

•C 
an the information be easily inputted
into our existing data management
system?
• Have the indicators proved to be useful
and valid measures of our work?

P
It is better to have a small system that
works well than a big system that does
not.
Once you have assessed the results of
your pilot, you may want to review your
indicators or data-gathering methods.
Remember that indicators are not set in
stone. Don’t be afraid to change them if
they do not work.

*
See Section 10 for more information on
reviewing your indicators.

*
See Prove It: Measuring the Effect of
Neighbourhood Renewal on Local People.
See Section 12 for details.

1

Section 5. Setting output, outcome
and process indicators

2
3

This section takes you through the stages of setting
your indicators and looks at some of the issues you
may have to address along the way. It considers when
to set indicators, whom you should involve and how to
go about it. It also discusses the pros and cons of using
other people’s indicators.

4

Key points

5

Setting outcome indicators

12

Keep asking yourself what are all the
possible signs of change you might notice in
your users.

11

Setting indicators for your outcomes
involves a similar method to the one
described above for output indicators. You
will need to take each of your outcomes in
turn and ask yourself:
• What will I see or hear, or what will other
people be able to notice, that will show
that a change has occurred in our users?

10
13

An output for an organisation providing
advice to other organisations supporting
black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
in the same borough is their helpline.
Output indicators therefore include:
• the number of calls received
• the type of enquiries
• the length of the calls
• the profile of organisations calling the
helpline.

See:
• Section 3 for more information on
output indicators and on quantitative
and qualitative indicators, and
• Getting the right mix of indicators in
Section 4.

9

Case example

*

8

It can be useful to start by setting output
indicators, as they are relatively simple to
identify. You will need to look at each of
your outputs in turn, identifying the most
appropriate indicators for each one. Some
questions you might want to ask yourself in
doing this are:
• What will I need to count in order to
know that something has taken place?
• What will I need to know about the
service, activity or product in order to
assess how it has been delivered?

7

Setting output indicators

6

• S etting indicators for both your outputs and your outcomes is important, to make
a clear link between the changes in your users and the services or products you
provide for them. Think about setting both quantitative and qualitative indicators, in
order to get a fuller picture of your work.
• Process indicators can provide rich information about how you are delivering your
services or activities.

14

29

P
When setting outcome indicators,
some people find it helps to imagine
their users before they come to the
organisation or project (or at the point
at which they first seek their help) and
then to imagine them after they have
finished receiving their help.

P
Don’t expect to set outcome indicators
that will apply to all of your users all
of the time. You are actually trying
to create a menu of all the possible
changes. Some users will ‘tick’ lots of the
indicators on your list, while others will
only ‘tick’ a few.

Next, as described in more detail in
Section 4, make sure you prioritise the
key indicators that will show you that the
outcome has occurred.

Case example
An organisation offering training courses
to women who wish to return to work
has identified the following outcomes:
• increased motivation among the women
• increased knowledge of the job market
• improved skills
• increased number of women returning
to work.
Indicators for some of these outcomes are
shown below.

Outcomes

Outcome indicators

Increased motivation among the
women

Level of self-reported motivation (ie, women say
they feel more/less motivated)
The number of times women are proactive in
seeking employment

Increased number of women
returning to work

30

The number of women returning to work
The type of employment found

1

Case example

9
10
11

An organisation providing a meals-onwheels service to elderly people in
their homes has the following process
indicators:
• the number of times meals are delivered
on time
• the number of times complaints are
made or compliments are given about
the quality of meals
• the number of different menus offered
• the number of van runs involved and the
length of time each run takes.

8
12
13

The language that is used to describe
outcomes and their indicators is
different. Outcomes are described
as changes (for example, increases
or decreases), whereas outcome
indicators do not express any change.
For example, an outcome ‘increased
confidence’ expresses change, whereas
its indicator ‘level of confidence’ does
not – it simply assesses it.

Process indicators help you to assess
progress in carrying out your work. One
of the most common ways in which
organisations monitor processes is when
they ask users how satisfied they are with
the services or products they received.

7

P

6

In order to distinguish between outcomes
and outcome indicators in your work, you
need to think about your user group and
decide whether certain types of change are
meaningful in themselves (and are therefore
outcomes) or if they are merely indicative
of a bigger change (and are therefore
outcome indicators).

5

Setting process indicators

4

The difference between outcomes
and outcome indicators
Some people get confused between
outcomes and outcome indicators because
the latter can sometimes look like small
changes or outcomes in themselves. The
essential difference is that outcomes are
significant single changes in themselves,
whereas outcome indicators are simply
signs that show whether those changes
have occurred.

For one type of organisation (for example
a youth project), ‘the extent to which
users participate in group discussions’ may
be an indicator of the outcome ‘increased
confidence’. But in a different type of
organisation (for example, a project
working with people who have particularly
low self-esteem), ‘increased user
participation in group discussions’ may be
a significant change and would therefore
be an outcome which could be assessed
by the indicator ‘the extent to which users
participate in group discussions’.

3

Case example

2

Some organisations whose aims focus on
protection, preservation or prevention
rather than change may find it particularly
difficult to set outcome indicators. In these
situations, it can be easier to set indicators
for outputs and process rather than for
outcomes. For example, a hospice
providing respite care for terminally ill
children might struggle to set indicators
for its users’ outcomes, but it could
set indicators for the quality of care it
provides and the difference this makes to
the children’s experiences and also the
experiences of their families, as secondary
users.

14

31

It is up to each organisation
whether they choose to monitor
process indicators as well as
output and outcome indicators.
However, most self-evaluations
should include user satisfaction
as this is very important
feedback on how well an
organisation is delivering its
services.
Sally Cupitt, Charities Evaluation Services

32

Setting both quantitative
and qualitative indicators
When deciding on indicators, try to think
of indicators that are both quantitative and
qualitative. There is a misconception that
indicators are all about numbers and are
therefore only quantitative. For example,
a helpline (an output) has quantitative
indicators relating to ‘the number of calls
received’ and ‘the length of the calls’, and
qualitative indicators relating to ‘the type of
enquiries’ and ‘the profile of organisations
calling the helpline’. ‘Increased participation
by young people’ (an outcome) could have
quantitative indicators such as ‘number
of consultation events attended by young
people’ and qualitative indicators such
as ‘type of participation made by young
people’.

1

Section 6. Gathering information

2
3

Once you have set your indicators, you need to think
about the methods you are going to use to gather the
information. This section looks at different types of datagathering methods and some of the issues you need to
think about.

4

Key points

5

•K 
eep your information-gathering simple. Only collect information you need, and
don’t collect information for the sake of it!
• Think about how you can gather information both routinely as part of your
everyday work, and through special monitoring activities such as surveys and
feedback questionnaires.
• Get feedback from your staff, volunteers, users and funders when choosing your
data-gathering methods.
• Make sure you allocate sufficient time and resources to gathering information, and
that staff and volunteers are clear what their responsibilities are.
• Ensure information is collected regularly so that a backlog does not build up.
• Think about how you are going to store the data before you begin gathering it.
• Think about how you are going to analyse the data before you gather it.
• Pilot your data-gathering methods to check that they work.

6
7
8

When to gather information

10
11

Make sure that you have a clear system for
when the information is to be gathered, how
it will be gathered and who is responsible
for the information. Then remember to
check regularly that it is happening, so that a
backlog does not build up!

13

33

14

12

It can sometimes be quite a long while
before you have built up enough data to
be meaningful and useful, so it is important
to find ways of gathering information as
part of your routine everyday work as well
as allocating time and resources to carry
out specific monitoring activities when
appropriate.

9

You will find that, for some of your
indicators, it will be easy to gather
information. And for others you may
already have systems in place for gathering
information. You may want to start by
gathering this ‘easy-to-collect’ information,
as this will be motivating and confidenceboosting for all involved.

Routine information-gathering
This includes gathering information on your
indicators as part of your everyday work
– for example, through:
• forms – for example, initial needs
assessment and registration forms
(including self assessments)
• interviews – either on the phone or
face-to-face
• case work notes and user records
• registers and logs
• suggestions boxes
• complaints/feedback books.

Concentrate on your most
important indicators and collect
information on those regularly.
If you save it to the end of the
quarter, you find that people
panic when they suddenly
remember that they have to do it
all at once.
Michele Stokes, Haringey Women’s Forum

*
See Practical Monitoring and Evaluation:
A Guide for Voluntary Organisations.
See Section 12 for details.

Specific monitoring activities
You may also wish to collect information on
your indicators through specific monitoring
activities such as:
• focus groups – getting together a small
group of people in order to gather
detailed feedback on a specific issue
• surveys or questionnaires – either paper
or online, for example to gather feedback
on user satisfaction.

*
See the Big Lottery Fund’s factsheet:
Using Questionnaires and Surveys
(available on their website at www.
biglotteryfund.org.uk).

How often to gather
information
For your outcome indicators, you will
probably need to think about gathering
the information on at least two different
occasions – for example, at the start of your
users’ contact with you and before they
leave. This means that you will have baseline
information with which you can compare
your subsequent data, showing the progress
your users have made.
However, sometimes it is not appropriate
or feasible to gather baseline information,
as you may have only limited or indirect
contact with your users.

Case example
An organisation providing a helpline for refugee families has the following outcomes and
outcome indicators:
Outcomes

Outcome indicators

Increased knowledge of local services
(such as education and health)

Level of knowledge of different types of
local services available

Increased access to appropriate services

The number of families who are registered
with a GP
The number of families whose children are
in full-time education

34

1

find a GP or school, or if it increased their
knowledge of local services.

2

How to gather information

3

Quite simply, each of your indicators can be
translated into questions. You then need to
decide which data-gathering methods you
could use to gather that information.

4

As the organisation has only one-off
contact with the callers to its helpline,
it can only monitor those outcome
indicators by sending out a feedback form
– so it can only collect this information
retrospectively. For example, it could
send out a feedback form asking people
whether the information and advice they
received from the helpline helped them

Case example

What type of contraception can also be an effective barrier
against sexually transmitted diseases?
Cap
Condom
Contraceptive pill
Diaphragm
etc.

Whether users
practise safer sex

Do you use a condom every time you have sex:
• with a regular partner?
Yes / No / This doesn’t apply to me.
• with casual partners?
Yes / No / This doesn’t apply to me.

8

Level of knowledge
of appropriate
contraception

7

Questions on feedback form

6

Indicators

5

An organisation providing information on sexual health has the following indicators,
which appear on its feedback form as questions.

9

10
11
12
13
14

35

Choosing which datagathering method to use
You will want to look at each indicator in
turn to identify how you are going to gather

the data. This will very much depend on the
indicator itself and on the depth and type of
information you need.

Case example
A community centre for the elderly provides a drop-in for users, workshops, exercise
classes and a weekly clinic run by a local GP practice.
One of the aims of
the centre

Outcomes

Outcome indicators

To improve the wellbeing
of elderly people using the
centre

Increased social
interaction

•N 
umber of classes attended per
week
• Number of workshops attended per
week
• Number of times users attend the
drop-in

Improved social
life

•N 
umber of times users socialise
outside the centre
• Number of centre social events
attended by individual users

One of the centre’s
objectives

Outputs

Output indicators

To provide classes and
workshops

Yoga classes
Fitness classes
Diet workshops

•N 
umber and type of classes and
workshops
• Number and profile of participants
• Number of participants

At its simplest
In the case example above, gathering
information on the indicator ‘number of
times users attend the drop-in’ will simply
involve recording the number of times
each user visits the drop-in. In this case,
the data-gathering method would probably
be the drop-in’s attendance register.

In more detail
You may also want to gather more
qualitative information on how your users
have been affected by your work. For
example, if the community centre wanted
to monitor the extent to which the centre
met users’ needs for social contact, they
could ask them to fill in a questionnaire
every six months which includes questions
like:

36

1

No

Not sure

Have you made friends since you started coming to
the centre?

3

Do you meet up with them when you come here?

2

Yes

Do you meet up with friends from the centre at
other times?

4

Would you say that this centre gives you enough
opportunity for socialising?

9

See:
• nef’s Proving and Improving toolkit
provides a helpful table summarising
the methods, benefits and limitations
of various types of data-gathering
tools.
• CES’ Practical Monitoring and
Evaluation: A Guide for Voluntary
Organisations also provides useful
information on this topic.
See Section 12 for details of these
publications.

10
11
12
13

Different methods are appropriate for
different user groups. Participatory tools,
such as asking users to make videos or
drawings, can be particularly useful when
working with children, young adults, or
people with language difficulties or with
learning disabilities. They can also be helpful
in gathering information on indicators that
relate to work in the community.

*

8

You may want to think about how your
data-gathering methods can engage your
users.

A local park in Reading was being ruined
by the large amounts of dog mess on the
paths and grass. Local people had become
concerned about the issue, and the
ineffectiveness of controls on dog-owners.
One day, red flags were placed over
each dog mess in the park by a team of
volunteers. There were lots of onlookers.
The press was invited to come and see,
and took photos of over 900 flags!
From: Communities Count: A Step-by-step
Guide to Community Sustainability Indicators,
published by nef

7

Engaging your users

Case example

6

There will also be times when you can
use information from other sources – for
example, research reports published by
government departments, universities or
other bodies, such as the police, NHS or
other TSOs. This is sometimes referred to
as secondary data and is generally available
on the internet or at your local library. This
information can be extremely useful – as it
saves you having to gather certain types of
data yourself – and is also motivating.

5

Getting information from others
It is sometimes useful to obtain information
from other people as well as from your
users, to enhance the validity of your data.
For example, the community centre in the
case example above could ask the visiting
GPs about the value of the centre’s
services and their contribution to enabling
positive outcomes.

14

37

Organising your datagathering

Key issues in gathering
information

Once you have identified the different
data-gathering methods you will use, you
will need to carry out a sorting exercise to
identify:
• which indicators are already reflected in
your organisation’s existing data-gathering
methods
• which indicators are not reflected in
existing data-gathering methods but can
be easily integrated into your current
systems (for example, by adding extra
questions to a form)
• which indicators need new data-gathering
methods to be put in place.

There are a number of different issues to
think about when setting up your datagathering system.
Making it manageable
You will probably not be able to gather all
the data on all your indicators from all your
users. So:
• You may need to prioritise your key
indicators (see Section 4).
• You may want to consider techniques
such as sampling or snapshots. Sampling
allows you to gather information from
a selected or random group of users.
Snapshots allow you to gather information
on a one-off rather than a routine basis.

P
Once you have identified data-gathering
methods for all your indicators, you
will notice that some methods can
be used for more than one indicator.
This is good news as it means that
one collection method, such as a
questionnaire, can be used to gather
information on several indicators at the
same time with the different indicators
reflected as different questions.

38

*
For more information, see Managing
Outcomes: A Guide for Homelessness
Organisations. See details in Section 12.

Making it accessible
Some of your information will be gathered
in written notes and records. To make
it easier to extract information on your
indicators, think about how you could
add new sections to records, or add
tick boxes for staff to show if they have
taken particular actions or noted certain
outcomes.

1
2

Case example
Actions

Outcome indicators

Date
4/2/07

3

6

3

7

Hostel phoned to
offer Diego a place.
He is moving in next
week.

5

Diego came into
office. Phoned up
the benefits office.
Sorted out why his
Jobseeker’s Allowance
has not been issued.
He also said the
interview we arranged
for him with the
hostel went well.

User has found
accommodation

4

5/2/07

User in receipt
of benefits

9

Shaminder Ubhi, Ashiana Network

11

Making sure the data-gathering
method is appropriate to your users
It is important to ensure your data gathering
takes into account your users’ specific needs
and concerns – such as language skills and
age.

10
12
13

Allocating time and resources
You will need to consider whether your
organisation has adequate resources to deal
with gathering the data.
• Do staff have the skills and experience to
gather and use the data?
• Do you have adequate IT systems to
gather and store the data? See Section
7 for more information on storing
information.
• Have you taken on board the effect
that data gathering has on staff time?
Responsibility for data gathering should
be written into action plans and job
descriptions so that there is clarity and
shared understanding of the roles and
responsibilities of your staff.

The difficulty is remembering
to do all of it when you are busy
dealing with clients. Sometimes
people forget. So now we put
monitoring issues on the agenda
for our monthly staff meetings as
a regular item in order to remind
staff.

8

Planning ahead
Think about how you are going to store
the data before you begin gathering it. (For
more on storing information, see Section
7.) You will also need to think about how
you are going to analyse the data before
you gather it. (For more on analysing
information, see Section 8.)

3

Case notes – Diego R

14

39

Some groups are wary of
monitoring and of people
asking for details on ethnicity.
Confidentiality is also an issue,
particularly for groups working
with refugees and asylum
seekers.
Andy Williams, Enfield Voluntary Action

P
Where appropriate, involve users in
identifying ways of gathering information.
You will be asking users to fill in forms,
answer questions, keep records and
give you feedback, and you may be
asking for that several times. If they can
understand why you are doing this, they
are less likely to get fed up of being
asked and are more likely to give you
good-quality information.

Ensuring your data-gathering
methods fit with your funders’
expectations
It is important to check that your funders
understand the data-gathering methods
you are going to be using, particularly if
you plan to use new or unusual methods
of data gathering such as video footage,
graffiti walls or pictures. (See Engaging your
users, on page 37.)
Getting your staff and volunteers
on board
Most of the time, you will be relying on
staff and volunteers to gather the
information at the same time as carrying
out their normal work activities and
providing services to users. It is therefore
vital to involve them in choosing your datagathering methods as this helps them to
see why they need to do it. Frontline staff
are also more likely to know whether a
particular data-gathering tool is going to
be appropriate for use with your users, so
listen to what they have to say about this.

40

Allowing for other information
You should also think about providing
opportunities for users to give you
other information, including information
which might give you negative feedback
or unexpected outcomes. You need to
include some open-ended and ‘any other
comments’ type questions on your forms, or
in interviews, to enable them to do this.
Data protection
You will need to ensure that you are
complying with data protection legislation
when gathering information. For example,
include a statement about data protection
on any forms you use to collect personal
information on your users. See Section 7 for
more information on data protection issues.
Piloting
Pilot any new data-gathering methods with
a small group of users to see whether they
work or not. Make sure you then build in
some time to review the results of the pilot
and make any changes that are needed.
Ask your colleagues to look at your forms
and questionnaires and test them out with
users. Then get them to tell you how well
they worked and whether any problems
arose– for example, information that didn’t
fit anywhere or questions that don’t make
sense.
Piloting your data-gathering tools also
enables you to check that the data you
are getting back is actually giving you the
information you require and is in a format
that is then easy to store and analyse.

1

Section 7. Storing information

2
3

This section looks at the different options available to
organisations and projects for storing and managing
information on indicators, how to select the most
suitable option, and how to make the best of the option
you choose.

4

Key points

11
12
13
14

41

10

Storing information on computer
There is a range of computer systems
available to enable organisations to store
their data. For example, systems such as
Word, Excel, Access and SQL Server are
widely used. You can also buy specialist
software for managing data from surveys
and questionnaires, such as SPSS (Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences), NUD.
IST and MaxQDA. Some software is
available for free on the internet, such as
SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com).

9

Advantages
• Paper records are simple to keep and
easily accessible.
• They do not require IT skills.
• They allow you to keep copies of letters
received or photographs.

Disadvantages
• The information can only be used by one
person at a time.
• The information can be lost or destroyed,
or become illegible.
• It can be difficult to manage paper
systems, particularly over a long period of
time and if you have data on lots of users.
• If the information is stored in many
different records or places, it can be
difficult to draw the information together
when you need it.

8

Storing information in paper systems
Many organisations keep their records in
files or folders.

7

Once you have decided on the methods
that you will use to gather information on
your indicators, you need to think about
how to store this information. You can
choose to store it:
• in paper systems
• on a computer system (perhaps using a
special software computer program), or
• a mixture of both.
All options have advantages and
disadvantages.

6

Different options for
storing information
collected on your indicators

5

• Invest time and resources in getting your data management right.
• Decide whether to use paper systems or computer systems, or a combination of
both, for storing your data.
• Check that data is being inputted accurately, thoroughly and consistently.
• Make sure people are clear about their responsibilities for inputting the information
and keeping it up to date.
• Provide the people who are storing the information with enough time, training and
support so that they are able to gather good-quality information.
• Make sure you comply with data protection legislation.
• Review your data management periodically, as the needs of your organisation or
project may change over time.

Advantages
• If you use a computer system, you can
share information effectively across your
organisation and from different sources.
• It makes it easier to organise your data.
• It helps you to manage large amounts of
data.
• It enables you to control access to data
(for example, with password protection
or by limiting access).
• It makes it much easier to analyse and
report on data.
• It provides a way to do more than just
record your information. It can enable
you to actively manage your work (for
example, by providing reminders of
actions you need to take) or it can even
become a tool to engage your users (for
example, through online forms).
Disadvantages
• Some people may not feel comfortable
using computers, or may not have the
necessary skills.
• Computer systems can break down or
data can be lost.
• Designing and maintaining the system can
require a lot of time and skills.
• You may not have enough computers, or
they may not be good enough.
• There may be cost implications such as
the purchase of software and technical
support.
Using both paper and computer
systems
Many organisations use a mixture of paper
systems and computer systems for storing
information on their indicators. Opting for
a mix of systems means you can choose
methods that are more appropriate to your
organisation and the way you work.
Advantages
• Some staff and volunteers are more
comfortable using paper records but will
accept that certain types of information
need to be kept in a computer system.

42

•U 
sing paper forms may be more suitable
in particular situations. For example,
filling out an assessment with a user is
often best done by a worker sitting with
the user and discussing the issues, and
filling out the assessment form as they
go along. However, for management and
reporting purposes, it is often helpful to
have information available on a computer
system, even if it is only to record that an
assessment has been carried out (rather
than the details of what it contains).
Disadvantages
• Using both systems in parallel can lead to
information and effort being duplicated.
• People may be confused about which
system to use.
• Information can be disjointed and difficult
to manage, as it involves recording
information in different places.

Deciding which option
to use
The choice of how to store and manage
your indicator information will be influenced
by the following factors:
• the ways you have chosen to gather your
data
• the existing information management
system – whether this can be adapted,
whether you want to invest in it further,
or whether you want to start afresh
• the resources and support available
• the organisation’s capacity to adapt to and
develop new systems.
In deciding which option you wish to
use, you could ask yourself the following
questions.
• How much information do we need to
store?
• What sort of information do we want to
get from the system?
• How many people need to enter
information into the system?
• How many people need to extract
information from the system?

1

Make sure information can be easily
recorded. For example, check that
questions and categories on your forms are
reflected on your computer system.

12
13
14

43

11

Relate information on your indicators
to a specific time period. For example,
if you simply have a tick box to record
when a user has seen a GP but don’t enter
a date, you will only be able to tell how
many of your users have seen a GP but not
when it happened. This will be a problem
when it comes to writing (or compiling)

10

Information should be checked and
‘cleansed’ regularly. If the information
going into your system is wrongly entered
or if there are gaps in key places, this will
undermine the quality of your information.
Someone should be responsible for
checking it regularly, and archiving redundant
records – for example, when a client has
died or permanently moved out of the
catchment area.

9

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires
all organisations which collect personal
information (including names, addresses or
dates of birth) to comply with a number of
principles regarding privacy and disclosure.
In particular, the Act requires you to make
clear to respondents what use you will
make of their details and give them the
option to refuse to let you use it. Although
this mainly applies to information held on
a computer system, it also applies to some
paper records where information on a user
can be easily located. You will therefore
need to make sure you take account of
this if you are using any forms that collect
personal information on your users.

Make sure your system is kept up
to date and accurate. A designated
staff member should have responsibility for
checking regularly that the information is
being recorded as planned.

8

Data protection issues

Make sure your system is clear and
accessible so that everyone knows what
information is held, and where and how to
find it.

7

For more support, see the ICT Hub at
http://www.icthub.org.uk

Tips for storing your data
effectively

6

*

For more information, visit the
Information Commissioner’s Office’s
website at www.ico.gov.uk

5

See Putting Outcomes into Practice: A
Guide to Developing IT-based Outcome
Data Management. See Section 12 for
details.

*

4

*

Your organisation or project will need
to register with the Data Protection
Commissioner if it processes any personal
information.

3

You may find it is a good idea to develop
an interim data management system (for
example, an Excel spreadsheet or Access
database) to help you work out how to
record your information before considering
more expensive, permanent options.

2

•H 
ow much training and skills do people
have?
• Can we afford to spend money on
training and support?
• How much time (and therefore money)
would we save by using a computer
system?
• Can we afford to spend money on a new
computer system or program?

annual reports, as you will not know how
many users saw a GP in the year on which
you are reporting.
Information on your outcome
indicators needs to be linked to
other information on your users (for
example, by the user’s name or an ID
number). By doing this you can show how
outcomes have been achieved as a result
of the services or products you provided
them with.
Your information must be properly
protected and regularly backed up.
This will also help users and staff to have
confidence in the system, by reassuring
them that the information is safe and
cannot be lost.
Look at how one system can
support the other. For example, if you
are using a cover sheet on your files that
shows the same information as you hold

44

on your computer (such as users’ names
and addresses), you could set up your
computer system to print out the cover
sheets for your files.
Try to create a seamless flow between
the systems by taking an overview of your
information-gathering. Check through the
list of your indicators systematically and
record which system holds which piece of
information.
Make sure people can access
information from your system easily.
Fundraisers and managers should be able to
obtain information easily without needing
to ask staff to sort through files or count
records manually. Frontline staff should be
able to look up information on their users
quickly, making their work more effective.
Review your data management
periodically, as the needs of your
organisation or project may change
over time.

1

Section 8. Making sense of
the information

2
3
4

Having gathered and recorded information on your
indicators, you may feel that you have lots of information
and wonder how this is going to turn into anything
meaningful. This section looks at how to pull together
that information to answer questions about your
organisation’s or project’s progress in achieving your
outcomes and delivering your outputs, and in the
processes involved.

5

Key points

10

You then need to summarise all this data
and, if you wish, turn it into forms such as
percentages, ratios or rates that will help
you assess patterns and trends.

9

P
Bear in mind that the information on
your indicators does not provide the
answers to why differences exist. As
the Audit Commission’s guide Aiming
to Improve says, ‘indicators should raise
questions and suggest where problems
may exist or emerge (acting as a ‘canopener’).’

11
12

Analysing quantitative data
This involves asking:
• how many of your outputs you delivered
– for example, the number of trees you
planted
• how many of your outcomes were
achieved – for example, the number of
users you re-housed
• how many users received your services,
activities or products.

score themselves on different issues (see
Section 6). To do this, you need to calculate
the change in users’ scores from one
assessment to another.

8

The data from your indicators – whether
this relates to outputs, outcomes or
processes – is likely to include both
quantitative (numerical) data and qualitative
(descriptive) data.

7

Analysing data on your
indicators

6

•Y 
ou don’t need a high level of skill to analyse data, but you do need to allocate
adequate time and resources to it.
• Make sure that what you find out meets your stakeholders’ needs.
• Look at what you actually want to know rather than what your system produces.
• Keep an open mind to negative feedback or unexpected outcomes that may
emerge.
• Set your data in context to make it meaningful.

13

You may also need to analyse data from
questions where users have been asked to

14

45

Analysing qualitative data
Information on your indicators may
also have been gathered in the form of
qualitative data, such as users’ views or
comments relating to their experiences
and situations. It may have been collected
in different ways:
• documents (for example, reports,
meeting minutes, questionnaires or emails)
• videos

• audio recordings
• images.
Analysing this data usually involves
identifying the themes in the text or images
that relate to your indicators. The following
two case examples show how this can
be done with information collected in
photographs and interviews.

Case example
A community organisation asked children
on an estate to take photographs of their
playground. The first set of pictures shows
their playground full of litter and graffiti,
and with a number of older teenagers

hanging around on the play equipment.
Three months later it asked them to take
some more photographs. These show the
playground is now clean, tidy and full of
young children and their parents/carers.

Indicators

In first set of photos

In second set of photos

Amount of litter

Lots

None

Amount of graffiti

Lots

Very little

Profile of those using the
playground

Older teenagers

Young children and
parents/carers

Case example
A homelessness organisation running a
drop-in centre providing food, showers
and support services for rough sleepers
recorded the following two interviews
with a client.

to keep on my feet. In the morning, I
bumped into Darren who told me about a
shelter where I could get some food. The
staff here were really friendly and told me
about how to sign on.

Interview with Justin in March:
When I came here, I wasn’t too sure what
you could do for me. I didn’t have much
money and I hadn’t told anyone I was
planning to leave home. I thought I could
maybe find a safe spot somewhere near
the station but when I got there it was
dark and lonely and I didn’t like it. I spent
that first night wandering around, trying

Interview with Justin in July:
I’ve been coming here for three months
now. I tend to come here just about every
day to see people and have a chat and a
cup of tea. I can also pick up mail here.
Things are much better than they were.
I’ve got used to being on the streets and
tend to stay with the others down near
the Town Hall.

46

1

Change

Level of isolation

High

Low

Decreased

Amount of money

Insufficient

Receiving benefits

Improved

Level of knowledge about
how to keep safe on the
streets

Low

Medium

Improved

4

At review

3

At assessment

2

Outcome indicators

Getting to the bigger
picture

As you analyse information on your
indicators, look out for other relevant
information that emerges.

There are a number of stages involved in
moving from a set of figures to something
more meaningful. You may want to do
some of the following.
• Go back to your data and analyse it in
different ways to find out more about
what it is showing you.
• Bring together a group of staff, volunteers
or other stakeholders to discuss the early
findings and see whether they make sense
to them.
• Set your data in context by making yearon-year comparisons – for example,
comparing the number of activities carried
out in the current year with the number
carried out in the previous year, or how
users’ outcomes have changed from one
year to the next.

11
12
13
14

47

10

Finally, it is a good idea to look critically at
the data you have analysed and ask yourself
these questions.
• Does it make sense?
• Is there anything missing?
• Are there any connections between
different pieces of information?

9

It is also important to look at what has been
happening both within your organisation
(for example, staff changes) and in the
external environment (for example, policy
or funding changes), so that you analyse
your findings within a wider context.

8

You should also examine any other
unexpected outcomes that have emerged
through your data-gathering. For example,
you might find that some users have
reported not only that they have improved
their communication skills but also that
they have made new friends. You may not
have set indicators for this but you need to
include this information in your analysis and
you may want to refine your monitoring in
the future to reflect this (see Section 10).
You may even decide to include ‘more
users making friends’ as a new planned
outcome for the project.

7

You may also need to make a conscious
effort to ensure your analysis considers the
perspectives of the different types of groups
and individuals that you work with, or those
who have dropped out of the project. For
example, you might want to analyse your
data to draw out the perspective of older
users to ensure that you have addressed
their specific needs.

6

Negative feedback is an important part of
the learning about an organisation’s work
or progress, but some people forget to
consider it.

5

Being open to other
information

You see patterns emerging from
the data you have collected but
you need to verify them before
you think about changing things.
Pauline Buchanan Black, The Tree Council

Finding the balance
between too much detail
and too little
Once you have finished your analysis, you
will need to think about presenting the
right amount of detail that is appropriate
and useful for your stakeholders. They are
unlikely to need detailed information on
each one of your indicators. On the other
hand, if you summarise too broadly, it may
not provide them with an accurate sense of
what has been achieved.

48

Bear in mind that indicators are just clues
to change. You may decide that you need
to show progress on all your indicators
to show whether you have achieved an
outcome, or perhaps just on one or two.
You will need to decide what is right for
your particular organisation or project and
your user group.

*
For more information on analysing
information on outcome indicators, see
Analyzing Outcome Information, from
the Series on Outcome Management for
Nonprofit Organizations, published by the
Urban Institute.

1

Section 9. Using the information

5
6
7
8
9
11

• It can help to motivate staff and
volunteers. Seeing the results of their
work and sharing the success of the
organisation or project can be immensely
motivating and energising.
• It can help you to evaluate new areas of
work and provide evidence for further
fundraising or development.

10

Accountability
The data you have gathered and analysed
can also help you to report to your trustees
and funders because it shows what you
have achieved with the resources you
were given. In many cases, reporting to
your funders will be a requirement of your
agreement with them.

13

49

14

12

Organisational learning
The data you have gathered and analysed
can help you in the following ways.
• It can help you to be more effective as an
organisation. You will be able to identify
what has and has not worked and see
gaps in your work which can feed into
future development plans.

4

•M 
aking good use of your information helps your organisation to learn and develop
as well as report to its stakeholders.
• Use the information in lots of different ways: report to your funders, share it with
your trustees, staff, volunteers and users, and (where appropriate) make it available
to other organisations, policy makers, the media or the general public.
• Don’t present outcome data in isolation from other information. You need to put
your outcomes in the context of who your users are and what services, activities
or products you have provided for them, and any challenges your organisation has
faced.
• Keep the information relevant to your audience – don’t use jargon or assume prior
knowledge of a subject.

There are three ways in which the
information you have gathered is valuable:
for organisational learning, for accountability,
and for promoting your work.

3

Key points

Making the most of your
information

2

Once you have analysed your data you should have
some interesting and valuable information about
the work you have done and the difference your
organisation has made to your users. Getting to this
point may have been a long and sometimes challenging
journey. However, you can now use this information
and share it with others. This section looks at how to
make best use of your information, how to present it to
different audiences, and how to use it to develop and
improve your organisation.

Promoting your work
Data collected on your indicators can also
be useful in publicising your work to:
• the general public
• the media
• potential and current users
• staff or volunteers
• policy makers
• other organisations.

We use some of our statistics to
show that, although we are based
in Haringey, we work across
boroughs. So we have a large map
on which we write the numbers
of users we have in each postcode
area, which we then put up on
our stall at exhibitions and
conferences.
Michele Stokes, Haringey Women’s Forum

Sharing information with your different audiences

Your different audiences are likely to want information in different ways and at different
times. Some examples are shown below.
Audience

Type of
reporting

Likely frequency
of reporting

Methods of
reporting

Your funders

Reports

Usually a mixture
of quarterly and
annually

Written reports

Your senior
management team
or board of trustees

Formal, detailed
reports

Quarterly

Written reports and
presentations

Your staff and
volunteers

Informal updates

Quarterly

Internal newsletter,
email or
presentation at staff
meeting

Your users

Informal updates

Will depend on
the type of contact
you have with your
users

Newsletter, display
on noticeboard or
website information

Other organisations

Will depend on
your relationship
with them

Will depend

Newsletter, website
information, email
updates, meetings
and conferences

50

1
7
8

P

13
14

51

12

As well as using your information to
keep people informed about your work,
you should also think about how your
organisation or project can benefit internally.
You might consider having a regular slot
at staff or trustee meetings to discuss the

11

Using your information for
learning and development

10

Here are some helpful tips to bear in
mind when reporting your information.
• Try and make it easy to understand
by using graphs and charts.
• Bring it to life by including quotes and
case studies.
• Some funders may only ask you to tell
them what you spent their money on.
However, also think about giving them
information on what difference it has
made to your users.

9

As well as simply reporting your
information, it may be helpful to place the
information within the context of your
organisation’s or project’s work and any
challenges it has faced. For example, you
may want to provide information on:
• the aims of your organisation or project
• the number of users you helped in the
period you are reporting on, and which
services or products they received
• a description of your activities
• the profile of your user group (for
example, sex, age and ethnicity)
• how users find out about your
organisation

When presenting your information, keep it
relevant to your audience. Don’t use jargon
or assume prior knowledge of a subject.

6

A volunteer bureau providing support
and information to local people about
volunteering opportunities reported the
following.
• Its website had attracted over 1,000
visitors in the last year, and over 500
had registered for its online volunteer
vacancy search.
• Over 200 people in the last year had
found volunteering opportunities using
information provided by the bureau.
After three months, 85% of these
reported that they were enjoying the
volunteering and 73% reported that it
had helped them increase their skills,
confidence and self-esteem.

5

Case example

4

You may simply need to list your outputs,
outcomes and processes and report your
indicator information relating to each one.

It is also a good idea to explain anything
that may have affected the delivery of
your activities or the achievement of your
outcomes, either favourably or negatively.
For example:
• delays in the recruitment of staff
• extended periods of absence or sickness
of key staff
• work that is linked to other projects
within your organisation
• successes or difficulties in partnership
working.

3

How you choose to present your
information will be largely dictated by the
method of reporting you use – for example,
whether you are writing a formal report for
a funder, or a newsletter article for your
users.

•w 
hat their needs are and what help they
request from you
• the process of recovery or change for
your user group
• the monitoring system used by your
organisation.

2

Presenting your
information

monitoring information, including what it
is revealing and the implications this might
have for your work.
It’s good for staff to see where
services are going and to be
involved in finding gaps
in services, especially for
responding to new and emerging
needs. For example, with cases
of forced marriages, we can talk
about how many are coming
through and how many we have
prevented.
Shaminder Ubhi, Ashiana Network

52

*
For more information on using
information on outcome indicators,
see Using Outcome Information, one of
the Series on Outcome Management for
Nonprofit Organizations published by
the Urban Institute. See Section 12 for
details.

1

Section 10. Reviewing your indicators

2
3
4

Reviewing your indicators means looking at the indicators
themselves to decide whether they are supplying the
information you need, rather than just looking at the
information they generate and deciding what to do with
it. This section looks at why and when you should review
your indicators and how to go about it.
Key points

5
12
13
14

53

11

Sometimes you may find that the indicators
you set have simply not generated the
information you needed.

Information on these indicators was
gathered through a quarterly review
session in which the young person’s key
worker asked questions about these
topics. However, when the time came to
analyse the information, it was found that:
• more people were borrowing money
now than at the start of the project
• most of the young people said they
had not had to turn down any social
invitations due to lack of money
• most of the young people said they were
regularly caught fare-jumping.

10

BBC Children in Need

An organisation working with young
people had a key aim of improving young
people’s budgeting skills. The indicators
they identified were:
• the number of times young people
borrow money
• the number of occasions on which
young people have to turn down social
invitations due to lack of money
• the number of times young people get
caught fare-jumping.

9

Very few organisations attempt
to develop and/or change their
indicators once they are set,
which may show they are not
thinking enough about them.

Case study

8

Once you have done all the work in
setting and gathering information on your
indicators, there is often a temptation to
think that the job is done and no more
attention needs to be paid to the indicators
themselves. Unfortunately, that is not the
case! As your work evolves and gradually
changes over the course of time, you will
need to make sure that your indicators keep
up with the changes and that they are still
valid and reliable ways of measuring your
work. If you simply leave them as they are,
some indicators may become less relevant
and some new indicators may be needed.

7

Why bother to review your
indicators?

6

•M 
ake sure that your indicators are valid and reliable ways of assessing your work.
• Indicators should help you to understand how your work is progressing and where
any changes may be needed. Reviewing them regularly will ensure that you can
always do this.
• Whenever you receive new funding, or if the work of your organisation or project
changes (for example, if you take on a new area of work), think about how this may
affect your indicators.
• Keeping your indicators working well for you requires regular attention.

The organisation realised the following.
• Borrowing more money did not actually
show whether the young people were
better or worse at budgeting, as the
organisation did not know whether the
young people’s living costs had changed.
• Most of the social invitations had not
been turned down due to lack of money
as most invitations had not required the
young person to spend any money.
• Most of the young people were caught
fare-jumping regularly because they did
not want to ‘waste’ their money on
fares. Change here would have meant
a change in attitude relating to farejumping rather than better budgeting
skills.

As the case example above shows, a
number of things can undermine the
validity of an indicator.
• If the indicator lacks contextual
information, it will not give useful
information. In the case example above,
living costs may have changed and thus
affected how much young people
needed to borrow.
• If the indicator does not apply to the
target group that you are monitoring,
information will be irrelevant. In the case
of the social invitations, the indicator
simply did not apply, as the young
people’s social activities were free.
• If the indicator does not assess the
outcome you are monitoring, the
information will not be helpful to you.
In the case example above, changes in
the amount of fare-jumping did not show
whether young people were budgeting
better.

When to review your
indicators
You need to plan in regular reviews of
your indicators. There are a number of
points at which you may need to review
your indicators:

54

• if the information you get from them is
not what you need
• if things change in relation to your
organisation or project (for example, if
you take on a new area of work or obtain
new funding)
• at the end of the year, or at the end of a
funding cycle or contract
• if required to by funders or trustees.

How to review your
indicators
You need to make sure the overall picture
presented by your indicators is complete
and is relevant to the outputs, outcomes
and processes you are monitoring. You may
need to do the following.
•R 
evisit your aims/outcomes and
objectives/outputs to check they are
appropriate
• Rethink your indicators to make sure
they provide good measures of your
aims/outcomes and objectives/outputs and
processes.
• Add in extra indicators if the information
you have gathered is incomplete or leads
you to ask questions you cannot answer.
• Change the way you are gathering the
information if you suspect this has affected
the accuracy of the information you have
gathered.
• Get rid of some indicators if you find
that they are duplicating each other, or if
they simply don’t provide you with useful
information.
When reviewing your indicators, you should
consult and involve your stakeholders as
appropriate. For example, you might want
to organise a working group to review your
indicators annually. The group could include,
for example, a trustee, a staff member
and a volunteer. It can also be valuable to
go back to your funders and check that
the indicators you report against are still
necessary, both for you and for them.

1
2

Case example

3

The organisation working with young
people on budgeting skills (see page 53)
responded to the problems it found with
the indicators it had set. It organised a
group of young people to come together
and help them work out what signs would
show if they had improved their budgeting
skills. As a result, they:
• added an additional indicator to gather
information on young people’s living
costs
• changed the indicator about social
invitations to ‘having enough money to
maintain their social life’
• added a new indicator about ‘ability to
save money for treats and presents’
• got rid of the indicator about farejumping.

4
5
6
7

Be flexible and change things if
they are not working.
Sioned Churchill, City Parochial Foundation

8
9
10
11
12
13
14

55

Section 11. Summary
1

8

Indicators discussed in this guide are
what you use to assess the progress your
organisation or project is making.

Pilot your indicators and methods for
gathering information to check that they
work.

2

9

Setting indicators and gathering information
on them are part of the cycle of planning,
monitoring and evaluating your organisation
or project. You have to be clear about your
aims, objectives and processes in order to
identify the indicators that relate to them.

Be realistic about the amount of time and
resources it takes to develop and gather
information on your indicators. Provide
people with enough time, training and
support so that they are able to gather
good-quality information.

3

10

A good set of indicators will help you to
identify gaps and make improvements
in your work. It will help you to report
effectively to your funders. Setting and using
indicators can also help to motivate staff,
volunteers and users.

Make sure you comply with data protection
legislation.

4

12

Select indicators which show progress
most clearly, which are practical to assess,
are a valid measure of your work, and are
important and relevant to your stakeholders.
Use different types of indicators to assess
different aspects of your work.

5
Setting indicators for both your outputs and
your outcomes is important so that you can
make a clear link between the services or
products you have provided and the effects
on your users.

6
When gathering information on your
indicators, don’t be tempted to collect
information for the sake of it! And think
about how you are going to store and
analyse the data before you begin gathering
it.

7
Make sure that staff and volunteers are
clear about their responsibilities. Also, keep
checking that information is being regularly
gathered and recorded.

56

11
Involve your stakeholders and make sure
you meet their needs.

Use the information from your indicators
in lots of different ways. Report to your
funders, share it with your trustees,
staff, volunteers and users, and (where
appropriate) make it available to other
organisations, policy makers, the media or
the general public.

13
Find regular opportunities to discuss the
information your indicators show. This will
enable you to keep an eye on the delivery
of your work and respond to changes as
needed.

14
Review your indicators regularly to ensure
that they remain relevant and demonstrate
progress effectively. Whenever you
receive new funding, or if the work of
your organisation or project changes (for
example, if you take on a new area of
work), think about how this may affect your
indicators.

1

Section 12. Further reading

2

Publisher

Aiming to Improve:
the Principles
of Performance
Measurement

Audit
Commission

Assessing Impact:
Evaluation Discussion
Paper 9

Charities
Evaluation
Services

R Astbury

www.ces-vol.org.uk

Communities Count:
A Step-by-step
Guide to Community
Sustainability Indicators

nef

A MacGillivray,
C Weston and
C Unsworth

http://www.neweconomics.
org/gen/z_sys_Publication
Detail.aspx?PID=14

Communities Count:
The LITMUS Test

nef

S Lingayah and
F Sommer

http://www.neweconomics.
org/gen/z_sys_Publication
Detail.aspx?PID=70

Evaluation Support
Guide 2: Developing
and Using Indicators

Evaluation
Support
Scotland

M Bitel

http://www.
evaluationsupportscotland.
org.uk/downloads/
SupportGuide2-final.pdf

Explaining the
Difference Your Project
Makes. A BIG Guide
to Using an Outcomes
Approach

Big Lottery
Fund (BIG)

S Burns and
J MacKeith,
Triangle
Consulting

http://www.biglotteryfund.
org.uk/er_eval_explaining_
the_difference.pdf

First Steps in
Monitoring and
Evaluation

Charities
Evaluation
Services

L Bishop

www.ces-vol.org.uk/index.
cfm?format=21

Getting Ready for
Quality: Learning
from Experience – A
Practical Approach

NCVO and
Charities
Evaluation
Services

B Cairns and
M Harris

www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/asp/
search/ncvo/main.aspx?siteID
=1&sID=6&subSID=
83&documentID=1971

11

Introducing the LEAP
Framework Model
– Developing Outcome
Indicators

LEAP

http://leap.scdc.org.
uk/uploads/developing_
20indicators.pdf

12

Authors

Website link for
downloads or ordering
details

4

http://www.auditcommission.gov.uk/reports/
AC-REPORT.asp?CatID=&
ProdID=72370C4D-10304b87-88F4-CD2A14B2A1AE

3

Title

5
6
7
8
9
10
13
14

57

Title

Publisher

Key Performance
Indicators Project

Cooperatives
UK

www.cooperatives-uk.coop
(Only accessible in the
members’ section of the
website.)

Library of Local
Performance Indicators

Audit
Commission
and IDeA

www.local-pi-library.gov.uk

Local Quality of Life
Counts. A Handbook
for a Menu of Local
Indicators of Sustainable
Development

Department
for
Environment,
Food and
Rural Affairs

http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/
publications/pdf/localqolc.pdf

Local Quality of Life
Indicators – Supporting
Local Communities to
Become Sustainable

Audit
Commission

http://www.auditcommission.gov.uk/Products/
NATIONAL-REPORT/
0D488A03-8C16-46fbA454-7936FB5D5589/
QofL2005.pdf

Managing Outcomes:
A Guide for
Homelessness
Organisations

Charities
Evaluation
Services

S Burns and
S Cupitt

http://www.lhf.org.uk/
Publications/Homelessness
OutcomesGuide.pdf

Performance Indicators
– Use and Misuse:
Evaluation Discussion
Paper 5

Charities
Evaluation
Services

J Russell

www.ces-vol.org.uk

PQASSO (Practical
Quality Assurance
System for Small
Organisations)

Charities
Evaluation
Services

www.ces-vol.org.uk

A Practical Guide
to Measuring Soft
Outcomes and
Distance Travelled

Welsh
European
Funding
Office

http://www.wefo.wales.
gov.uk/resource/Soft_
Outcomes_Leavers_Study_
E7217.pdf

58

Authors

Website link for
downloads or ordering
details

1
2

Publisher

Authors

Website link for
downloads or ordering
details

Practical Monitoring
and Evaluation: A
Guide for Voluntary
Organisations. 2nd
edition

Charities
Evaluation
Services

J Ellis

www.ces-vol.org.uk

Prove It: Measuring
the Effect of
Neighbourhood
Renewal on Local
People

nef

P Walker,
J Lewis,
S Lingayah and
F Sommer

http://www.neweconomics.
org/gen/z_sys_
publicationdetail.aspx?pid=2

Proving and Improving:
A Quality and Impact
Toolkit for Social
Enterprise

nef

L Sanfilippo

http://www.
proveandimprove.org

Putting Outcomes
into Practice: A Guide
to Developing ITbased Outcome Data
Management

London
Housing
Foundation

D Parkinson

http://www.lhf.org.uk/
Publications/ITPuttingoutcomesintopract.pdf

The Sample Indicators
Bank

nef

Self-evaluation: A
Handy Guide to
Sources

Renewal.net

Series on Outcome
Management
for Nonprofit
Organizations:

Urban
Institute

• Key Steps in Outcome
Management

3

Title

4
5
6
8

•A 
nalyzing Outcome
Information

Urban
Institute

H Hatry,
J Cowan and
M Hendricks

http://www.urban.org/
publications/310973.html

•U 
sing Outcome
Information

Urban
Institute

E Morley and
L Lampkin

http://www.urban.org/
publications/311040.html

13

http://www.urban.org/
publications/310776.html

12

L Lampkin and
H Hatry

11

Urban
Institute

10

http://www.renewal.
net/Documents/RNET/
Policy%20Guidance/
Selfevaluationhandy.pdf

9

A Shah

7

http://www.
proveandimprove.org/new/
meaim/samplendicators.php

14

59

Title

Publisher

Authors

Website link for
downloads or ordering
details

Social Return on
Investment: Valuing
What Matters

nef

D AeronThomas,
J Nicholls,
S Forster and
A Westall

http://www.neweconomics
org/gen/uploadsck3oqu
4515ubcv55e1xhmin
n21042004165114.pdf

Soft Indicators:
Recognising Progress

Renewal.net

Toolkits: A Practical
Guide to Monitoring,
Evaluation and Impact
Assessment for
Development Work

Save the
Children

Using Questionnaires
and Surveys

Big Lottery
Fund

60

http://www.renewal.net/
Documents/RNET/Toolkit/
Softindicatorsrecognising.doc
L Gosling and
M Edwards

http://www.savethechildren.
org.uk/en/54_2359.htm

www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

1

Section 13. Sources of support

9
10
11
12
13

Regional support networks vary in terms
of their support, but in general they can

A range of bodies in England provide
support for organisations that trade
commercially while pursuing a social or
environmental mission. There are regionwide support agencies in certain areas and
local social enterprise support agencies in
others. There are also national umbrella
bodies and sources of information on best
practice and knowledge across the sector.
See the Performance Hub’s website (www.
performancehub.org.uk) which has details in
its Getting support section.

8

Regional support

Social enterprise support

7

Community anchors are
neighbourhood-based organisations that
provide services for local people, support
the community sector in their patch, voice
local concerns and help to develop an
active community. To find the one closest
to you, see www.communitymatters.org.
uk/local_information/index.php

A number of national organisations provide
support to voluntary and community
organisations on many different aspects
of organisational life. Some offer generic
support, while others focus on particular
job functions (such as chief executives),
or specialist areas of the third sector
such as youth or the arts. The NCVO
Directory of Umbrella Bodies and Resource
Agencies provides a map of existing
umbrella and resource agencies. The
following organisations provide support
on performance improvement to the third
sector:
• Charities Evaluation Services (see www.
ces-vol.org.uk)
• National Council for Voluntary
Organisations (NCVO) (see www.ncvovol.org.uk)
• Bassac (see www.bassac.org.uk)
• nef (New Economics Foundation) (www.
neweconomics.org).

6

Rural Community Councils (RCCs)
are county-based, independent, local
development agencies that offer support
on the ground to enable rural communities
to develop social capital and improve
their quality of life. To find the one closest
to you, see http://www.acre.org.uk/
zRCCNETWORK.htm

National support

5

Councils for Voluntary Service
(CVSs) support voluntary community
groups by providing them with a range of
services and by acting as a voice for the
local voluntary and community sector.
Usually funded by the local authority and
other local statutory agencies, there is a
CVS working in almost every district and
city in England. Many are called CVS,
while others are called Voluntary Action
or Voluntary Sector Council. NAVCA’s
website provides a map which will enable
you to locate the one closest to you (see
http://www.navca.org.uk).

4

Many local infrastructure agencies provide
one-to-one support around performance
issues through face-to-face training and
mentoring, as well as offering telephone
advice and support. Contact your local
infrastructure agency to see what support is
on offer:

3

Local development agencies

provide a forum for voluntary groups to
share learning and information and offer
training on a range of topics relating to
organisational development. To find the
one for your area, see the Performance
Hub’s website (www.performancehub.org.
uk) which has details in its Getting support
section.

2

Further support is available from a number
of different sources.

14

61

Section 14. Glossary
Accountability

Indicator

The extent to which individuals or
A sign or signal that can be assessed to
organisations are held directly responsible
determine whether a given thing has
for something, such as spending or activities. occurred or has been achieved (for
example, an output or an outcome).

Aims

The particular changes or differences the
organisation or project plans to bring about.

Baseline
A starting point for making comparisons.
Information collected about where things
stand at the start of a project can be
defined as baseline data.

Benchmarking
Comparison of activities, processes
or results with those already achieved
by an organisation itself or by another
organisation.

Inputs
Resources put into an organisation to
carry out an activity. Inputs may be human
resources, material or financial resources, or
may be expressed as time.

Milestones
Particular planned achievements or key
events marking a precise stage in completing
a main phase of a project.

Monitoring

Beneficiary

The routine, systematic gathering and
recording of information for the purpose
of checking an organisation’s or project’s
progress against its plans.

A recipient or user of an organisation’s
services, activities or products.

Objectives

Data
Any information collected by an
organisation or project to monitor its
progress.

Evaluation
Involves using monitoring and other
information to make judgements on how
an organisation, project or programme is
doing. Evaluation can be done externally or
internally. (See also Self-evaluation.)

Hard outcome
See Soft and hard outcomes.

Impact
There are different ideas about the meaning
of impact. It is often seen as the change,
effect or benefit that results from the
services or activities at a broader or higher
level than an outcome. Others use it to
mean the same as outcome.

62

The activities an organisation or project
plans to carry out in order to achieve
its aims.

Outcomes
The changes, benefits, learning or other
effects that happen as a result of services
and activities provided by an organisation
or project.

Outputs
The activities, services and products
provided by an organisation.

Overall aim
Describes why the organisation exists
and the broad effect it wants to have.
It summarises the difference that an
organisation wants to make. It is often linked
to the mission, vision or purpose of an
organisation. Also see Specific aims.

1

The method, or step-by-step description, of
how a task or activity is to be done.

Something that is primarily descriptive and
interpretative.

Quantitative

Self assessment

Soft outcomes are typically defined as
intangible, a matter of degree, and more
difficult to assess. They are commonly used

TSO
Third sector organisation. TSOs include
charities, voluntary organisations, community
groups and social enterprises.

User
A beneficiary of an organisation or project.

User satisfaction
Involves finding out what users think
of activities, products or services – for
example, the location of an organisation or
project, its opening hours or how helpful
the workers are.

12

Soft and hard outcomes

These specify the quantity and quality of
outputs and outcomes aspired to. They are
usually specific, measurable and time-bound.

11

A form of evaluation in which people within
an organisation lead or have control of the
evaluation process and make judgements
about their organisation’s or project’s
performance towards meeting its aims
and objectives, usually against a set of
performance indicators.

Targets

10

Self-evaluation

The main group or groups you are working
with and the people your organisation or
project is aiming to benefit.

9

A method by which people within an
organisation make judgements about their
organisation’s or project’s performance,
usually against a set of quality standards.

Target group

8

Something that is numerical and can be
assessed.

The people or groups who are affected
by or who can affect the activities of
an organisation. This can include staff,
volunteers, users, customers, suppliers,
trustees, funders, commissioners, donors,
purchasers, investors, supporters and
members.

7

The range of ways an organisation can
implement quality management through
use of a formal system to encourage
improvements.

Stakeholders

6

Quality assurance system

Statements about broad areas of change
an organisation hopes to make for its users.
These usually stem from the needs of the
users. See also Overall aim, above.

5

Qualitative

Specific aims

4

Process

for changes in attitudes, self-perception or
certain skills areas. These are often, but
not always, intermediate outcomes. Hard
outcomes are defined as quantitative and
often more easily measurable.

3

Approaches and methods used by
researchers to enable people to collect,
analyse and present their knowledge about
life and conditions, and to plan, act, monitor
and evaluate.

2

Participatory learning and
action (PLA)

13
14

63

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