I’m always stunned how few organisations are able to quantify the business and social impact of their community investment. Billions of corporate dollars flow into the community every year, and yet understanding what got done, and who benefited, is often challenging.
We suggest that two important philosophies need to underpin measurement.
One is ‘theory-based evaluation’ – all programs need a model for how they work. No money should be spent on anything until people can adequately answer the question ‘what change are we trying to create and how do we think this program will create it?’. The answers don’t need to be perfect to begin with, but they certainly need to exist.
Two is ‘utilisation-focused evaluation’ – we need to remember that the answer to ‘did it work’ is different depending on who is asking. When the CFO asks that, they mean ‘did it create value?’. When the CSR manager asks it, they mean ‘did it create impact?’. When the marketing manager asks it, they mean ‘did it change the way people think about the brand?’. And on and on it goes. We need to figure out what questions key stakeholders will be asking in advance, and then design our measurement to make sure we can answer those questions.
Sounds basic? Sure – but do you do it? And if you do it – how well do you do it?
I think we have a right to ask for more when it comes to impact measurement. For the amount of time, money and energy we spend, I think we could expect more from our partners and networks in measuring and articulating the impact (both social and business) that they have.

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