Recognising the Value

We have all heard anecdotally about the power of local charities to cater for those that statutory services are ill-placed to reach. But those with money to give to charities increasingly want to see tangible evidence of outcomes that have been achieved by a charity – and this is becoming increasingly true of the public, too, who are demanding greater transparency about what their donations, as well as public money, are being used for.

However; it’s important to realise that a lot of outcomes can’t necessarily be translated into numbers. It is difficult to truly put into numbers the impact of, for instance, a group of young, deprived children being given the opportunity to learn to play an instrument. Or of a befriender popping around regularly to see an older person who has health problems. Or of a group of tenants and residents on an estate feeling truly empowered about what their physical environment looks like. 

It is not easy to assign numerical value to these activities, but it doesn’t decrease their importance. What we should be doing is appreciating the value of two kinds of evidence of impact – of the rich value of stories and descriptions of activity, and of the social and economic value that lies beneath these stories, but can be tricky to pull out.

Here at Community Southwark, we asked the VCS in Southwark to write a paragraph which demonstrated their impact. What we’ve tried to do here is use a few of these case studies which outline the rich detail of charity activity – then do our own investigation to find out the associated numbers and demonstrate the true value of the sector’s work.  

A (very important) bit about methodology….

  • It needs to be emphasised that this is very much rough and ready way of calculating the value of the work of the sector, and should not be taken as rigorous. These figures are examples of potential savings and do not represent real cash savings that have been acheived
  • Where the source is not otherwise indicated, all estimations of value used here have been calculated using New Economy Manchester’s Unit Cost Database (March 2015) spreadsheet, accessed here
  • Fiscal value is defined as the costs or savings to the public sector that are due to a specific project (e.g. delivery of additional services or reduced health service, police or education costs).
  • Economic value is defined as  the net increase in earnings or growth in the local economy;    
  • Social value is defined as the wider gains to society such as improvements to health; educational attainment; access to transport or public services; safety; or reduced crime.    

If you have any questions or need clarification over methods, please contact