Creating a new generation of data to solve social problems.

“To realize meaningful benefits, philanthropy cannot be treated as just another ‘check the box,’ but rather must be executed no less professionally, proactively, and strategically than other core business activities.”

So writes Dr. Terence Lim in the preface of his report, “Measuring the Value of Corporate Philanthropy: Social Impact, Business Benefits and Investor Returns,” which was recently released by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.  Dr. Lim’s well-structured publication delineates three approaches to measuring corporate philanthropy including formal impact evaluation and impact-achievement potential assessment as well as Mission Measurement’s preferred approach, outcomes measurement.

While I value Dr. Lim’s explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of each measurement approach, what I found most useful was his description of the critical conversations that take place between each of the key actors in corporate philanthropy, namely, CEOs, investors, giving officers and grantees.

Dr. Lim describes a dynamic that I’ve often experienced with my corporate clients:  company leaders demand return on investment  (ROI); socially-minded investors seek both profits and social returns (SROI).  Meanwhile, giving officers and grantees aren’t sure what constitutes strong delivery of ROI or SROI, let alone how to practically measure either!  As Dr. Lim points out, corporate philanthropy can and does deliver social impact, business benefits and investor returns.  His report outlines these different types of results and ways in which to measure them.

Corporations that arm themselves with this information can, in my opinion, take another bound forward by redesigning their corporate giving programs bearing in mind the business outcomes and social impact they aim to achieve.  Measuring value means understanding results; using measurement data to improve strategy means approaching corporate philanthropy like a core business activity and producing bigger, better results that last.

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