Measuring the Impact of Social Investments
How can corporations and their foundations measure the impact of their social investments? As CSR reporting grows, what information and data can enhance both reporting and decision making?
In recent years, Conference Board member companies have been working to evaluate the impact of their corporate social investments. Corporate grant makers find themselves in need of consistent data collection, accurate benchmarking, and measurement standardization. They express frustration that they often find themselves responding to a structure proposed by an outside organization, rather than part of a partnership to develop a useful measurement system. Combining TCB’s research skills and our members’ practical insights, we are launching a new Research Working Group to address this need.
As part of its Initiative on Corporate Philanthropy, The Conference Board is convening a Research Working Group on Measuring the Impact of Corporate Social Investing in June 2013. This group will examine the existing approaches and define a “better mousetrap” from a dedicated brain-trust of philanthropy professionals assembled to focus on practical needs and potential solutions.
While there is no “silver bullet” for measuring social impact, there are several promising approaches. Some of these focus on defining “what counts” and on straight-forward measurement of outputs and impacts of grants. Others are aimed at tracking and reporting the social performance of investments and generating financial returns. A few even seek to quantify the bottom-line business value of corporate social investing. Any solution will require the recognition that the era of Big Data is upon us and measurement systems must keep up.
This Working Group will benefit a wide variety of companies that want to seize an opportunity to define their work and standards. We will move beyond one-size-fits-all prescriptions, and engage in internal dialogue and facilitated conversations with leading players in the measurement field to co-create new thought-leadership, frameworks, and plans for action and implementation.
We will address the following questions:
- How can having additional data improve the social investing function, both internally and externally? Should it impact investment decisions?
- What should be measured? Everything? Only investments meeting certain financial criteria? Investments at a portfolio level? Groupings of grants for pre-identified social impacts?
- Which of the existing measurement approaches can offer helpful direction in different situations? How can selecting a for-profit or NGO partner provide useful benchmarking information? What is the importance and responsibility of the partners in the impact measurement process?
- What level of reporting is right for an individual organization? How can it help communicate their mission and giving approach?
The Conference Board's initiative on Corporate Philanthropy has helped streamline other aspects in this field such as combining the CECP and TCB surveys, establishing the first annual China Philanthropy report and is working to establish an open network of global volunteering partners. Our unique position as a non-profit and non-advocacy organization positions us well to partner with corporate social funders, foundations and grant makers to help determine a new approach to measuring the impact of corporate social investments.