The Real Value of Giving? New Report Examines the State of the Art in Measuring Organizations' Social Impact

NEW YORK, Nov. 25, 2014 — (PRNewswire) — No longer an ancillary activity or luxury reserved for banner years, philanthropy and corporate giving programs play an increasingly central role in shaping the values, business goals, and public image of successful companies. Just as desirable consumers choose to buy from—and top talent desires to work for—organizations with a history of strong financial performance, many now seek a track record of positive social impact. The problem? No single accepted method for measuring such impact has been established, resulting in a cacophony of advice and information.

Framing Social Impact Measurement, a new report from The Conference Board, steps in to make sense of it all. It analyzes current measurement practices, reviews a panoply of approaches for defining and measuring impact, and considers how innovative big data approaches could open a way forward. It also examines the challenges in producing rigorous social-impact metrics—in particular, how the costs might be divided between non-profit (and often resource-strapped) organizations and their corporate backers who increasingly demand such information.    

"Many leaders in the non-profit sector and their funders in the corporate world seek a universal approach for measuring the impact of their interventions—the social equivalent of financial reporting standards," said Alex Parkinson, compiler and editor of the report. "But given the myriad goals pursued by these organizations—from education to healthcare to environmental conservation—a universal 'accounting' convention remains a long way off. Instead, Framing Social Impact Measurement looks at how organizations should approach evaluation to capture the most accurate results that reflect their strategic objectives."

Among the key strategic takeaways of the report:  

  • Measuring impact will become an important part of demonstrating a company's overall value, as philanthropy integrates further into business strategy.
  • Customers want a sophisticated demonstration of impact, not just a list of outputs. Revenues will flow to companies that can provide that.
  • Corporate philanthropy needs to be aligned with business interests, not the personal preferences of CEOs.
  • With the support of their corporate partners, nonprofits can take advantage of the benefits of data, thereby extending their impact.
  • New global markets face different social issues, but it's imperative that companies be involved in these communities to build a customer base and engage employees. Measuring your social impact will help you know you're in touch with the right issues.
  • Corporate philanthropy is an important employee engagement tool that helps companies attract and retain talent. Millennials want to know their efforts are making a difference. Companies that can demonstrate this will be more competitive in a tightening labor market.

For complete details:

Report:   Framing Social Impact 
              (Research Report R-1567-14-RR)
              Compiled and summarized by Alex Parkinson

About the Conference Board
The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest. Our mission is unique: To provide the world's leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society. The Conference Board is a non-advocacy, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States.

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