2018/19 YHA Impact Review
This blog is taken from the 2018/19 YHA Impact Review which can be read in full here. It explores the challenges of impact reporting in a contemporary charity.
Reviewing and reporting on our impact really matters to us. We have a duty of care to those who support us — by staying with us, joining our membership, by giving and by volunteering — to report on our impact as a charity. Even more importantly, we have a responsibility to our beneficiaries to review and determine what we are doing well and should do more of — and where we could have an even greater impact if we did things differently.
As we develop our Strategy 2020 to take us to our 100th year, we are thinking a lot about how we might improve analysis of our work — how we report on what we have done, what it cost and what it achieved.
As important as it is to know how many people stay with us, over the year ahead we will be finding out much more about who stays with us. Our emerging strategy has both social inclusion and community cohesion at its core. YHA aims to be accessible to all and we want to actively encourage people from different backgrounds to use our shared spaces and places. To do this, we need to better understand who stays, works and volunteers for us currently. And we need to better understand the barriers to access so that we can work to remove them.
We know that YHA’s universal offer is based on the very best standards in hostelling — it’s why our user satisfaction scores are so high. We know that YHA programmes such as school residentials are based on the best evidence — on research such as Learning Away. And our targeted programmes are developed in partnership to create shared objectives that are jointly measured. Similarly, our volunteering and work experience opportunities continue to be based on the latest evidence of what works and the highest standards.
But across all of these we seek to better understand the individual and community impact that we are having. We need to continue to draw on best evidence and to undertake our own evaluations. This can be expensive. This can be time consuming. And — particularly when looking at long term impact — it can be very challenging.
Within this, we need to report on how much our impact costs. Much is made around charity overheads and traditional models focus on presenting as low a charitable overhead as possible. But is this right? When increasingly funders and partners want effective governance and monitoring and evaluation of impact, are we failing if we don’t ensure appropriate funding on governance and management? And how do we best reflect cost per beneficiary? We know we need to increase access to our work to a wider group — and targeted work is always more costly. How do we reflect this in our reporting?
This impact review is our starting place for reporting on what we do and how we do it. For the fullest picture it should be read alongside our annual accounts.
It is important to remember that just because something cannot be easily counted or quantified it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t improved somebody’s life. Every time I visit a hostel I see first hand the difference we make — to individuals, to families, to our staff and to volunteers. When a child visits a beach for the first time, or makes a den under the bunk bed or makes their first trip to the Tate, the impact is joy.
Transparency and good charity governance underpin our emerging strategy. Over 2018/19 we revised our governance to give members even more say in YHA and, as we go forward, we look forward to being challenged by members, partners and beneficiaries to do more and report better. Thank you for your part in reading this review and we look forward to working with you on our next steps.