Are You Ready for Impact Assessment?

May 22, 2014
Sean Fenton

Not every arts group is well suited for impact assessment, and there is no sense in collecting impact data if you do not fully understand how you will use it, and what you might do differently based on what is learned. Before undertaking impact assessment, ask key decision makers in your organization to debate and discuss a few questions:

  • Are you satisfied with attendance data and critical reviews as measures of the success of your programming?
  • For board members: What assessment systems do you want to have in place in order to feel assured that staff is accountable for artistic outcomes, and that the institution is sufficiently performing on its mission and making an impact?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to read and discuss impact results on a regular basis? How frequently, and for which programs, is it most important to assess impact?
  • What process will you install to absorb and reflect upon impact results? Who will be the champion?
  • If you learn that impacts are different than expected, what actions might you take?  What is at stake, and what isn’t at stake?

You may well decide that impact assessment is not appropriate for your organization for one reason or another, or to approach it very slowly (e.g., conduct informal focus groups after performances, but avoid surveying).