Whether you’re looking for angel investors or institutional funding for your business, you need to make sure you’ve got your business plan sorted.
For businesses operating in the third sector, getting their Theory of Change down is important – but what does it mean, and why should non-third-sector businesses care?
In short, Theory of Change or (ToC) is a philanthropic-based methodology used to quantify how much social change an initiative may bring about.
For all businesses regardless of sector, the process of projecting what resources a company needs to create an impact, who’s involved, and the impact it produces, is important.
It doesn’t matter that your version of impact may be based on commercial profit, or social benefits, the same rules of planning, and projecting apply if you want to impress investors with your business plan.
You can use this theory to remember what to include in pitches and business plans and impress your audience.
Because impact can be financial or societal, – and all businesses need to generate it to succeed.
ToC looks complicated, but it needn’t be
So, Theories of Change can be useful, but they can sometimes, appear a little complicated, here’s an easier way to remember what it is:
Theory of Change borrows a principle from the Logic Model.
“Logic models are ways of thinking about your impact in a series of steps starting with your inputs (i.e. your budget: the things you put into the project) and include a variety of terms ranging from outputs to outcomes.”
People often misinterpret the difference between outputs and outcomes so we’re not going to dwell on those differences but instead consider a simpler way forward.
Change is a Process
Fundamentally, what you’re trying to articulate with your Theory of Change, Logic Model or grant application, is the potentially unique process through which your organisation or project is able to create change.
Remember this change can be impactful or commercial, or even a little of both, depending on what sector you’re in, and if a founder wants to create more than merely profit in their business.
“The Theory of Change is focused in particular on mapping out or ‘filling in’ what has been described as the “missing middle” between what a program or change initiative does (its activities or interventions) and how these lead to desired goals being achieved.”
– Here are five steps you can take to articulate your process in plain English.
Step 1. Activities: What do you do?
● What are the ‘activities’ you provide?
● Are these easy to count?
– If you’re not a third sector business or charitable initiative, think of these ‘activities’ like services, what services does your commercial company provide to customers? – And are they easily identifiable?
This will useful for market research and will come in handy during pitch presentations.
If you can easily recall and identify the services you provide to consumers, it will make your funding pitches more convincing to investors.
Doing this will also help you establish what your company values and objectives are, and these points are fundamental ones to make when looking for funding.
Step 2. Participation: Who gets involved?
Apart from when you’re running a charity and events based initiative, commercial business owners should think about what kinds of consumers are currently engaging with their products or services.
By doing this, they can think about who they might want to attract in the future:
This is when Paid Search comes in handy, if the results are what you want, you can then provide an analytics report to investors and show them who exactly is getting involved with your goods or services.
Think about the points below in relation to who attends your events, or engages with your charity or commercial business:
● Examples of things you can track/ sales online/ social media
● Number of attendees at each session/consumer engagement levels
● Age, Gender and demographic splits
Step 3: Are there any changes in how people think?
Change always begins in the mind.
Remember whatever your business is, chances are you’re selling goods or services to humans, with minds – and brains.
Commercially speaking, has your business initiative created a new customer base or stimulated even better loyalty from existing ones?
– Consider whether there has been a change in any of these aspects among the people you work with:
Step 4: Are there any changes in what people do?
For most of the projects we work on, we are not merely content with seeing a change in how people think.
– Fundamentally we want to change their behaviour.
In the commercial world, business owners can think about changes in online engagement, especially relating to marketing and sales.
– What adverts are your consumers engaging with?
With this in mind, what changes do you expect to see as a result of your project across each of your stakeholder groups?
● What someone does
● Uptake of a habit
● Government policy
● Company policy
Step 5: Are there any changes in what people have?
However, keeping in mind the points below is also useful when thinking about customer experience and the quality of customer service you may be providing in the commodity, goods and services and leisure industries.
For example, is your brand stimulating the economy in some way, is it creating jobs or leading to a chain of market stimulation?
E.g. You can track whether there has been a change in:
● Savings to the Economy
Whatever your business, and regardless of the sector it sits in, it’s always good to get a little psychological about what your business does.
Seeing the bigger picture sure helps when you’re pitching to investors, remember they want to be inspired.
So start by inspiring your self and think about what your business does, or wants to do in the future – think BIG.
Matt Kepple is CEO of Makerble