We measure what matters. When it comes to CSR strategies, why is there so little investment in measuring community impacts?

Non-profits are required to produce, in many cases, exacting data and complicated measurements in order to qualify for foundation grants and public money. While these requirements can be a bit onerous, they’ve proven to be a helpful development within the world of philanthropy.

Many businesses, now actively investing in the health and wholeness of their communities, seem to be crying ‘foul’ as the same requirements are being asked of them. Bea Boccalandro, a member of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship faculty and president of VeraWorks, has found that most companies are resistant to the idea of measuring the impact of their community programs. In her latest blog post Measurement is more than a good thing to do – it’s the right thing, Bea finds that many companies respond with the following:

“We can’t measure whether our program truly makes a difference without cutting services,” corporate citizenship professionals often say, “so we just can’t afford to prove impact.” Faced with zero-sum funding decisions, we overwhelmingly choose more people served over more knowledge gained. We consider it heartless to favor an evaluation report over a child. Virtually every corporate citizenship program supports services. Precious few know whether such services make an impact.”

But here’s the thing, non-profits almost always have fewer resources and capacities for measurement-related processes. While many of the businesses who posit this dichotomy of ‘doing good’ or ‘measuring good’ have tremendous resources and capacity for measurement.

To my way of thinking, it is a bit suspect to spend the appropriate amount of money on evaluating all areas of the business while relegating ‘doing good’ to the category of ‘good enough’. Bea sums it up well:

The cost-effectiveness of our decision is also suspect. Based on the body of impact evaluations done in the past five years, it appears no more than half of nonprofit services generate the purported change – be it reducing high school dropouts, improving mental health or reducing crime – to a meaningful degree. By eschewing impact evaluation, we tacitly accept that half of our social sector investments are unproductive and that it’s acceptable to remain in the dark as to which half. Forgoing impact evaluation in favor of delivering services is shortsighted. It’s a commitment to activity, not to change.

True Corporate Citizenship and CSR treats community engagement as an integral and necessary part of the overall business. Let’s take a moment and see if we’re doing as much good as we believe we are.

What do you think? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

Read Bea Boccalandro’s full article here: Measurement is more than a good thing to do – it’s the right thing

Bea Boccalandro is a member of the Boston College Center faculty and is president of VeraWorks, a global consulting firm that helps companies with their community involvement. She has helped Aetna, Bank of America, Levi Strauss & Company, The Walt Disney Company and others develop and enhance their community involvement through research, strategy design, program development and evaluation. She is the lead author behind the Drivers of Excellence for Employee Giving and Volunteering Programs and related Fortune 500 research. In addition to serving as faculty for the Boston College Center, she teaches cross-sector partnerships at Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership and consults and teaches for the Points of Light & Hands On Network and for the Council on Foundations. Contact Bea: bea@veraworks.com

Email Chris: chrisjarvis@realizedworth.com
Email Angela: angela@realizedworth.com

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