Helping the helpers: how to measure the impact of nonprofit and intermediary support work

At True Impact, we hope that each nonprofit who engages with our reporting platform also has the opportunity to learn more about our impact measurement perspective and approach in order to apply it to their own unique work. While reporting can feel time consuming, reflecting on and articulating your impact builds is core to learning and sustaining your work. In addition, social impact measurement allows you to share back learning with your funders and community stakeholders.

For some organizations, the process of impact measurement might be more straightforward. For example, if you run a summer camp for students to learn about STEM career paths, your end beneficiaries are easily identifiable as the youth attending the camps. From there, your social impacts might be those youth succeeding in school or accessing post-secondary education. 

For others, this model might not be as simple and could take additional steps to identify the end outcomes. The following are key considerations in order to successfully and accurately measure the impacts your programs have:

1. Identify and focus on your end beneficiaries

Based on True Impact's approach to impact measurement, the first step in understanding your program's true social impact is to identify who the end beneficiaries of the program are. These are the individuals whose lives are being improved because of the work being done. So if you run a program that trains teachers, training teachers is part of the capacity development of your work while the end beneficiaries are then the students being impacted by those teachers. 

If you run a program that supports small business development organizations, the end beneficiary are the small business owners

To help answer who your end beneficiaries are, ask yourself whose lives are being improved because of this work happening.

2. Determine how lives are being improved because of your program

Now that you’ve identified who the end beneficiaries are, you can detail how those beneficiaries had their lives improved from your work. These are the outcomes of your program. While the day to day work might focus on training the teachers, the end outcome of that work is the students improving their academic performance. Consider what the goal of your program is and how you are improving lives.

If these end outcomes are further into the future, ensure your report captures that timeline and encompasses at least one full year of impacts. So if you spend 6 months training teachers, you can add one year to the timeline to also encompass the period where teachers are making an impact on their students and realizing some of those end outcomes.

3. Use best available data

In the True Impact tool, you’ll be asked to share the number of end beneficiaries reached and then how many succeeded (were meaningfully impacted). Often if you are an intermediary organization, these questions can present challenges as this might not be information you currently track or can easily project. If you are the organization training teachers who will then reach students, you likely track how many teachers are being trained, but perhaps you do not also track how many students are then reached nor are you measuring if and how those students' lives are improved.

This is when we recommend using the best available data to tell your impact story. If you do not directly measure the impacts on the end beneficiaries, it is possible someone does. What we mean by this is whomever you are directly serving (teachers, businesses, nonprofit leaders, etc.) might already be tracking the impacts of those they serve and who you are identifying as the end beneficiary. While this means an additional step in your measurement process, gathering this data will help strengthen your story of impact and make your report even more compelling. Feel free to copy and use this sample outreach tool to gather the data from your own stakeholders to help measure the end outcomes.

If direct measurement is not feasible, you can also estimate end outcomes by using existing research, past program data, data for similar sorts of programming, or other methods that can help you draw connections between the work being done and the resulting impacts. For the program training teachers, you might point to this study which showcases that teachers who connect learning back to students' lives result in improved student learning. Therefore, if you train teachers on this, you can point to the outcome of improved academic performance. For resources on existing research, review this comprehensive list put together by True Impact.

Ultimately, we want to meet you where you are at in your measurement journey and if directly measuring is not yet feasible, that is totally acceptable!

4. Strengthen your measurement practices

Finally, this process may have elevated areas for improvement in your measurement approach. Perhaps you solely capture data of the teachers being trained, but you now see opportunities to gather student data to help tell the story of your organization's full impact. If this is something you want to improve upon, you can start by reviewing this list of measurement resources or reach out to the True Impact team directly for support and guidance.


The following table illustrates how we would represent various types of programs in the True Impact model:

Intervention type

Who is immediately served or what capacity is built? 

Program Development

Who is the end beneficiary?


What are sample outcomes?


A program that trains teachers

Teachers being trained

Students of the teachers trained

Students improving their academic performance

A program that trains volunteers to respond to disasters

Volunteers being trained

Community members where the volunteers are located

Community members improving safety

An organization that regrants to local community organizations

Community organizations being granted money:

1. Homeless shelter

2. Church

3. Community center

1. People who live in the shelter

2. Church congregation

3. Community members utilizing the center

1. Beneficiaries attain, retain, or improve housing

2. Congregation improves wellbeing 

3Community members gain safe and affirming environments

An organization that incubates social change leadership and strategy

Organizations, leaders, and impact entrepreneurs in the local ecosystem who advocate for policy change

Community members that benefit from policy change and power building

Community members gain financial strength

An organization that co-designs programs to address community needs 

Stakeholders involved in the co-design process

Community members then impacted by the program(s) created

Community members achieve or improve food security

A Housing Assessment for the city planning office

Influencers activated through housing study

Number of people who gain housing if study recommendations are implemented

People who attain housing if study recommendations are implemented

Infrastructure improvements (parks, municipal buildings revitalization)

Infrastructure improvements made

People who use facilities

People gain improved access to community resources

Finally, to fully illustrate the example of a teacher training program and how that would ultimately look in a True Impact report, review the following logic model example:

Stage Indicator

Program Development iconProgram Development

1 program resource developed

  • Success Criteria: A toolkit of best practices co-created with teachers involved in training sessions
  • Directly Measured: Staff or administrative project monitoring

100 staff trained

  • Success Criteria: Teachers involved in weekly training sessions for 12 weeks
  • Directly Measured: Staff or administrative project monitoring

Reach iconReach

2,500 people reached

  • Success Criteria: Number of students taught in one school year by the teachers who participated in the training program
  • Directly Measured: Participant sign-in, attendance lists, or usage logs

Succeed iconSucceed

2,000 improve academic performance

  • Success Criteria: Students who increased their grades in at least one subject during the school year
  • Estimate:  Published studies or data from similar programs with documented social impact