HOW CAN YOU UNLOCK THE VALUE OF COMMUNITY INVESTMENT? DEFINE IT.
KPMG’s recent report Unlocking the value of social investment states that companies around the world have no trouble reporting on community investment inputs and outputs, but reporting on impact remains elusive. Many challenges to impact reporting are listed, ones that we have all encountered in our community investment work. So how do we carry the conversation forward? By starting with the end in mind.
Often, companies will begin to define impact by creating focus areas. Education, health, or environment, to name a few. It is important to note that while identifying focus areas creates the opportunity to better define your impact, this is not the end of the journey. Some important questions remain:
- Who do you want to impact –Do you want to work with a specific population – newcomers, low-literate individuals, aspiring leaders, children, youth, or adults?
- What change do you want to see? – For example, a decrease in financial barriers to post-secondary education? Or access to early development programming in low-income neighbourhoods?
- How can this be measured? – What is the time-frame of your investment? Are you investing in change? How long will change take to occur? The answers to these questions will bring forward the right metrics.
Identifying the ultimate outcome – your change within a focus area – is your first step toward understanding, measuring, and communicating your impact. The Harvard Business Review echoes this: “Don’t start from the present. If the starting point is the current approach to business, the view of the future is likely to be an optimistic extrapolation.”
Honing in on your impact may make finding your ideal partner more difficult. As a funder, you should not be timid about soliciting and cultivating the partnerships needed to create the impact that you seek. This may be a cost upfront, but high-performing partnerships beget others.
Community investment strategy is about choices, and sometimes this can be difficult. As the facilitator of the LBG Canada network, SiMPACT Strategy Group can help you employ best practices in corporate community investment, and leverage the implementation experience from over 40 participant organizations.
Impact can be difficult to report for so many reasons, but you can’t measure that which has not yet been defined. Be clear on your goals, and start with the end in mind.