Impact for Whom? Defining Beneficiaries

One of the most important considerations in building strategy for impact is establishing who your beneficiaries are. You want to be clear about for whom you are intentionally doing this work. This shows up at the very beginning of strategy building, in defining your Intended Impact Statement, which states the result we intend to be accountable for, for whom, and by when.

The ‘for whom’ part can be tricky. Often, in an effort to be inclusive, organizations will include a very broad population in their plans and suggest that change for some percentage of them is a goal to strive toward. Say a 10% reduction in those experiencing homelessness, or a 50% increase in people getting mental health supports.

The danger of setting goals this way is that we can fall into the habit of thinking about outputs rather than outcomes. That is, if reaching 10% of a population is the goal, constraints on funding and time will tend to support serving those 10% among the population that are already the easiest to serve.

It is a myth that any impact is the right impact.

Being clear-eyed about the best and highest use of our resources can lead us to focus our impact and shift strategy toward beneficiaries who are more challenging to serve. Talking about where the need is, and for whom, can help us see where to adapt programs, engage new partners and seek funding from different sources.

Impact strategy will be stronger and more lasting if we segment target populations and make informed decisions about where impact is possible and most needed. Spending time thinking about beneficiaries in more detail can help us make more impact.