We need a revolution in charity transparency.

It sometimes feels that the only way we as charities, social enterprises and NGO’s can raise funds is to tell heart-breaking stories about their beneficiaries, rather than balancing this storytelling with hard facts about the impact they actually achieve (or don’t). Driven by a scarcity of funding, we feel compelled to tell ever more hard-hitting stories and publish ever higher vague success rate percentages to secure the money we all need. We believe we have reached a pinnacle of this story telling culture.

This was epitomized last year with the collapse of Kids Company and a state where trust in charities is now at an all-time low. 

This needs to change.

Our journey to transparent and holistic impact reporting.

We’ve have been fortunate enough to work with two of the UK’s leading Venture Philanthropy organisations Impetus-PEF and Inspiring Scotland over the past seven years who have pushed us hard to develop transparent impact measurement. We’ve been on a three-stage journey to get to where we are today.

Pre 2010 we used to just measure ‘participation’ – measuring the number of people who took part in our football sessions. We then moved to an outcomes-based model– ticking the box when we achieved a measurable outcome like getting a job or a training place. That was better, but still a long way from the transparency we wanted to achieve.

In 2013 we were challenged to go further. We introduced a model which tracked the whole journey each young person takes with Street League, from the moment we meet them right through to helping them stay in a job for six months or more.

We have a monitoring and evaluation system which allows us to record where our young people are coming from (their highest educational attainment, their postcode mapped against the Indices of Multiple Deprivation data, their length of time unemployed and any barriers they were facing to getting a job like drug use or housing issues). We also track their journey through our programme, the outcome they achieved and most importantly whether they stayed in the job for 3 and 6 months. We also track when we aren’t able to help a young person, for example when they left our course early without achieving an outcome, and then fed all of this data back into re-designing our programmes.

Most importantly we introduced a rigorous internal audit that required every outcome we achieve to be validated – for example, a job outcome is only valid once we had a photocopy of a first months payslip or a job offer letter. We need to prove what we do.

Our most transparent Annual Report yet.

We still have a way to go, but we strongly believe in the need to balance the good stories we tell with hard impact data, even if the data doesn’t always tell a good story. For example, in our annual report this year we highlight the 109 young people that we weren’t able to help during 2015/16.

VIEW/DOWNLOAD our Annual Report 2015-16

Our approach: Three Golden Rules

There have been many attempts to produce a unified measurement system for the charity sector.

We believe there is a straightforward and simple framework which all charities could adopt, which we've called the Three Golden Rules. If we start with this, transparency will follow.

  1. We will never overclaim what we do
  2. All percentages are backed up by absolute numbers to avoid being misleading
  3. All our outcomes are backed by auditable evidence.

Three Golden Rules

Join the debate online with a #CallforClarity

Support our campaign for greater transparency on Twitter using the hashtag #CallforClarity.

Street League CEO, Matt Stevenson-Dodd, answered your questions on our #CallforClarity campaign below: