About this toolkit

This is a toolkit for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise to provide ways to prove and improve their quality and impact to:

  • Help organisations’ leaders and managers clarify how their work has an effect on people, communities, and the environment. Many of the ideas and resources presented can help you to identify and share the effects of your work with others including staff, communities, customers, investors and funders.
  • Clarify some basic principles of proving your value and improving your organisation’s work, so that you can start at the level that’s right for you, and build your skill and expertise over time.
  • Present approaches from the voluntary and business sectors to help prove and improve the effectiveness of your organisation. These include methods that support strategic planning, health checks for the organisation’s functioning, and systems that help to define and demonstrate ‘quality’ both within the organisation and to outsiders.

Who is the toolkit for?

Socially enterprising organisations
Organisations that support socially enterprising activity
What is social enterprise?


“The toolkit includes the things that matter to Social Enterprise and Community & Voluntary organisations and is presented clearly with good practical solutions for groups to try.”

– Nat Thompson
Infrastructure Quality Development Officer
Voluntary Action Sheffield

Charities, voluntary sector and other socially enterprising organisations

The toolkit will be useful for any organisation bringing together a social, environmental, or economic mission with market trading or other income-generating strategies. This includes:

  • Social enterprises.
  • Social entrepreneurs.
  • Charitable organisations.
  • Community and voluntary organisations.
  • Ethical businesses.

Organisations that support socially enterprising activity

The toolkit is also a resource for those who provide advice and assistance to socially enterprising people and organisations such as:

  • Business support and advice providers.
  • Social enterprise development agencies.
  • Performance improvement advisors.
  • Community anchors, local community and voluntary services councils.
  • Investors, lenders or philanthropic funders.
  • Public or private sector organisations seeking to better understand how social enterprises can prove their value and improve their quality.

What is a social enterprise?

“Social enterprises are businesses that trade in the market with a social purpose. They use business tools and techniques to achieve social aims and include an incredibly wide range of organisations, for example cooperatives, development trusts, community enterprises, housing associations, social firms, and leisure trusts.”

(Social Enterprise Coalition)

“Social Enterprises are businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”

(Department of Trade and Industry Social Enterprise Unit, Strategy for Success)


Proving and Improving

What does it mean to ‘prove’ and ‘improve’?

‘Proving’ is about demonstrating that change is actually taking place, that your organisation is living up to its mission, and that it can explain these changes and effects to a range of people that have a stake in what happens. It can also be about demonstrating to these people that your organisation or its activities lives up to or achieves expected standards. Proving can be important within the organisation, within the group of people the social enterprise seeks to serve, and to various types of supporters.

‘Improving’ refers to a continuous process of learning and growth, to support the social mission and also to sustain/grow the business. It is also about actively pursuing ways to get better – at delivering goods and services, running efficiently, and creating value for employees and partners.

These two ideas are joined in a continual process of planning, learning, and working together with colleagues and others.


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