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5 key steps to measuring your social impact

July 10, 2023 -- 3min
5 key steps to measuring your social impact

More than ever, all stakeholders (consumers, employees, managers and investors) want to know the impact of their CSR and corporate philanthropy initiatives. Companies need to ensure that their activities reinforce each other and achieve their objectives. In a webinar conducted in partnership with True Impact and Engage for Good, Optimy teamed up with a team of experts to discuss the key steps to measure corporate social impact.

"Equity, diversity and inclusion are part of [the company's] core values. Since 2020, we have committed more than $30 million to racial equity and social justice in the United States." 

The above quote is a good example of a well-intentioned statement. It's a big commitment to an important cause, and there's nothing wrong with that. Except that it doesn't talk about the impact that comes from such contributions. How do you translate these good intentions into real, measurable impact?

In addition to being able to report on the resources mobilized and actions carried out in connection with their social impact initiatives, organizations must also be able to measure the real impact on the end beneficiaries. This is all the more true in the current macro-economic climate, where the battle for budgets and funding is intensifying. That said, many organizations still find it difficult to define a good social impact strategy and stick to it. 

As a software provider specializing in the management of CSR and philanthropic projects, we help organizations manage the flow of their initiatives, from selecting projects to support, to communicating with partners, tracking specific budgets and reporting on resources used and deliverables. So we wanted to collaborate with True Impact, which specializes in social impact strategy and measurement, to share some key tips.

1. Define a clear theory of change and impact objectives

Put in place an action plan aligned with your organization's objectives. To do this, you need to clearly formulate your objectives and how you intend to achieve them. This is known as a theory of change.

The construction of this action plan generally hinges on 3 pillars: alignment, definition of indicators, definition of objectives.

  • Alignment: Who do you want to help? What do you want to do to help them? Where do you want to provide support? If your team can answer these questions confidently and concretely, you're on the right track.
  • Indicators: Once you've achieved this alignment, determine the indicators you need to measure progress towards these impact objectives. Think about segmenting these indicators into three categories: resources, achievements, and impact.
  • Objectives: Set objectives in line with your expectations and needs.

In practice, this means taking the time to organize the right meetings with the right people, have the right discussions, make the important decisions and put them down on paper.

2. Gaining stakeholder support

To make your vision a reality, it's important to secure the necessary support, both financial and operational. Often, this support extends beyond the sponsorship or CSR department. Come up with a proposal that results from clear alignment and a clearly articulated framework to support it. Timing is also very important. The sooner you start reporting on your actions, and engaging stakeholders, the better.

3. Use the right process to collect and analyze data

While the goal is to measure impact, the term "impact" can mean very different things to different people. On the one hand, there are organizations that use the word "impact" to report on processes or resources used. But the amount you spend on something is not an impact, it's an expense. 

On the other hand, when some people hear "measurement", they think of multi-year studies or expensive, complex, and time-consuming university research projects. This is intimidating and can lead to inaction. There's a balance between the two, and we recommend breaking them down into 4 phases: Reach, Learn, Act and Succeed.

  • Reaching: phase during which people are engaged or supported;
  • Learn: phase during which people acquire knowledge or are motivated;
  • Act: phase in which behavior is modified on the basis of their learning.
  • Success: phase in which people's lives are improved. This is the social impact.

Once again, evaluate these different phases as early as possible, equipping yourself with solutions and platforms that will help you optimize your work and save time, while ensuring better collaboration.

4. Support your nonprofit partners and offer them the opportunity to build their capacity

Often, when we talk to CSR departments, their concern about measuring impact stems from their reluctance to burden their nonprofit partners. We believe this can be a win-win situation. 

Here are four steps that we believe help to collect quality data, while taking into account the reality of associative partners:

  • Be transparent and direct;
  • Be simple and organized;
  • Stop asking for what you don't need;
  • Use data as a basis for communication.

5. Evaluate and adapt: measure to improve!

We don't believe in measuring for the sake of measuring, but rather in using data to improve. We see this as a loop. When done right, we believe that measuring impact can lead to a greater sense of purpose. It can also help you increase funding, better align resources with objectives, lobby for a specific cause, etc.

Want to learn more? 

Watch the replay of our webinar organized in collaboration with the True Impact agency and the Engage for Good network of CSR professionals. Visit our Resources page for key content and subscribe to our newsletter. For further information, please contact us.

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