As the adage goes, “What gets measured gets done” and while this isn’t a new concept to most marketing professionals, nowhere is measurement more critical than corporate social impact programs. Why? Because of the complex equation involved. Not only do business objectives need to be accounted for, in addition, the social impacts must also be carefully calculated.
In a recent webinar sponsored by MMS Education, we learned more about this tricky calculus from MMS Education’s Karen Ellis and GENYOUth’s Ann Marie Krautheim.
According to CECP’s Giving in Numbers 2017, 87% of companies are measuring and tracking the societal outcomes and/or impacts of their investments and starting to use the data to inform their core programs. According to Ellis, this is a trend that has been on the rise over the past decade. Savvy nonprofit organizations understand this trend and work to deliver on measurement expectations of their stakeholders, which may include everyone from their board to corporate partners.
Ellis shared that there are many business metrics that could potentially be measured, ranging from audience reach and awareness to employee engagement; from PR activity to brand/reputation. On the social impact side of the equation, metrics can include everything from enrollment or audience data to outputs and impact outcomes. These metrics can be mutually reinforcing, says Ellis.
But the key, according to Ellis, is balancing aspirations with results. Since no one has unlimited resources, it’s critical that what is being measured is useful and informative.
Many industries are focused on a single metric, reports Ellis. For example, in the education market where both MMS Education and GENYOUth operate, graduation is the most common single metric of successful programs.
While it’s easy to want to measure every possible input and output, Ellis and Krautheim both agree that it’s critical to decide up front what the goals of a given initiative are and spend ample time with stakeholders in “open and honest conversations” to determine exactly what the desired objectives are.
According to Ellis, measurement should comprise 10-15% of the total project budget for typical initiatives.
GENYOUth takes its measurement directive extremely seriously but also understands that its stakeholders don’t want to sift through tomes of data and, in collaboration with MMS Education, has produced reports that share key metrics at a glance. According to Krautheim, these reports are used with everyone from their board to existing and potential corporate partners to health and wellness partners.
Ellis stresses that these easy-to-read reports are backed by mountains of data, which makes them powerful tools in the organization’s measurement arsenal.
In addition to collecting impact and business data to report on the effectiveness of a program or initiative, GENYOUth and MMS Education also see value in data collection as a means to strategically identify needed services and provide focus to existing efforts.
For example, through rigorous data collection, GENYOUth discovered that girls were drawn to their NFL flag-in-schools program which provides flag football kits to schools nationwide and have tailored their approach (and their reporting) to highlight this critical opportunity to engage girls in physical activity in a non-traditional way.
Similarly, when the organization realized its NFL Play 60 initiative wasn’t meeting the needs of a growing Hispanic population, it used data collection to successfully design a program specially tailored to this market, not only to develop Spanish language materials but also to create a culturally-appropriate program that met the needs of the Hispanic community.
As the corporate social impact industry becomes ever more sophisticated, smart measurement techniques and frameworks will only grow in importance. The days of engaging in social impact programs because “it’s the right thing to do” are long gone. Companies that prioritize purpose as a business strategy must also take the measurement of business and social impact seriously, designing programs from conception to execution with these critical measurement principals in mind.