Assessing Sustainability: Part 4 – Impact

In Sustainability by Karen Buck

This post is part of a 4-part series on our Sustainability Self-Assessment tool. Read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

The Sustainability Self-Assessment uses questions developed by Conservation Impact and Nonprofit Impact and used in hundreds of planning and organizational development projects over the past 16 years. It is organized by the components of the Integrated Strategy

Impact Defined

Impact lies at the center of the Integrated Strategy and is the key to sustainability. Impact is the long-lasting change that an organization brings about. The Integrated Strategy takes a comprehensive systems approach to the core components of identity, constituents, and capacity, considering them not only individually, but also in how they relate to and affect one another. It is this interplay between identity, constituents, and capacity—for example how an organization’s identity indicates who its constituents need to be and those constituents in turn influence how the organization defines and pursues its identity—that leads to strength, resiliency, and the ability to have impact.

Impact-Related Characteristics of Sustainability

The Integrated Strategy shows that sustainability is about getting results. For an organization to be truly successful and sustainable, it must have impact. Organizations and agencies that make an impact…

  • Understand how identity, constituents, and capacity add up to impact
  • Focus on what is being achieved, not just what is getting done
  • Can articulate 2 or 3 key indicators that demonstrate impact and monitor those indicators
  • Consider how major decisions contribute to, or detract from, impact

Assessment Questions – Impact

  • What is the long-lasting change our organization seeks to achieve?
  • What 2 or 3 key indicators do we use to measure our impact?
  • How do you monitor our impact and use that information to inform our planning and decision making?


Enlist a team of organization or agency leaders to answer the assessment questions individually and compile the answers. Compare the answers to the list of characteristics below and discuss:

  • What do our answers tell us about our impact?
  • What are our strengths regarding our impact?
  • What are our biggest gaps/ weaknesses?
  • What are the one or two actions we will take to increase our impact, who is responsible for those actions, and what is the deadline?

Go here to read Assessing Sustainability: Part 1 – Identity
Go here to read Assessing Sustainability: Part 2 – Constituents
Go here to read Assessing Sustainability: Part 3 – Capacity