Measuring the Impact and Success of a Nonprofit-Corporate Partnership
By Sarah Ford on February 3, 2022
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from companies regarding nonprofit-corporate partnerships is this:
“How can we best measure the ROI and impact a partnership has on our company, for our nonprofit partner, and for the community as a whole?”
“Impact” means different things to different people. Before you can measure impact and ROI, you need to:
- Answer the question, “What do you want to accomplish through this partnership?”
- Consider whether or not the partner you have chosen is a good fit (for you and for them), and
- Define what “impact” means to you and your partner.
Values and Expertise
Before you select a partner, you need to look within your company.
- What are your company’s values?
- What is important to your employees and other key stakeholders?
- What resources – financial, human capital, goods – can you contribute to the community?
- What is your expertise, your specialty?
- What would you like to be known for in the community?
The answers may seem obvious to you, but the common hurdle many organizations face is the next question:
"What specific need or problem in the community is your organization best suited to address?"
Some needs are more visible and apparent than others. If you look a little deeper into a cause, is there a lesser known, but equally important need that could benefit from your support? For example, if you manufacture or sell apparel you could take the more obvious philanthropic action of donating apparel to a shelter and stop with that. Donating goods can certainly contribute to common ESG goals like reducing waste in landfills. However, a deeper conversation with your nonprofit partner could bring to light another issue that your donation is helping address and open the door for even more collaborative opportunities like employee volunteerism. The combination of the apparel your company donated, combined with your employees volunteer time could play an incredible role in building kids’ confidence and self-esteem, while helping the nonprofit with its clothing budget challenge.
Finding the Right Fit
Don’t worry if you can’t answer these questions and identify a cause on your own. A business decision of this magnitude may necessitate outside guidance from a strategic partner like America’s Charities. Our more than 40 years of experience providing employers and nonprofit organizations with charitable giving services and employee engagement solutions puts us in a unique position to help your organization identify which need(s) and nonprofit partner(s) would make the most sense for you. Whether you need help identifying a charity partner, or have hundreds of nonprofits that have reached out to you for support, we can help find the right approach for you (click here to initiate a conversation with us).
Defining Goals and Impact
Once you have identified a charity partner - or group of partners - who fit the needs your company would like to address, the next step is to have detailed discussions with the nonprofit partner to identify what “impact” means to each of you, and what measurements will define a successful outcome. Since every partnership is unique there are no general “systematic measurements” for success that can be applied to every situation. At times, success can be measured immediately upon completion of a project, or it may take a few years to measure due to the nature of the project. The key is to be clear about what success means and have patience while waiting for the results.
Below are some things to consider during the initial conversations with your partner:
- Set clear, realistic, shared goals that will benefit both partners and specify who is responsible for delivering what.
- Determine how long the relationship will last and put an exit strategy in place. Due to the nature of your partnership, some projects may be completed within a couple months, while other projects may take a few years. Consider starting out on a smaller, simple scale to show proof of life over a period of time and to test out the partnership. Put an exit strategy in place to ensure your organization leaves the nonprofit in a better place once your partnership has accomplished its goals.
- A partnership is two-sided. Are there existing methods your nonprofit partner practices that can be used to measure your impact? Measuring impact should not be about collecting more data, but rather what information is absolutely necessary to prove your success. As a company, you obviously don’t want to burden your nonprofit partner, but don’t be afraid to look to them to help provide some of the answers and indicators of success.
- Stay within your means. Even if there is an ideal way to measure a program’s success, your nonprofit partner may not have the human capital or skills necessary to collect the information. Your company could help out financially so the nonprofit can hire someone for the job; you may involve your employees who have the skills needed for measuring the program’s success; or you might need to identify an alternative, less ideal measure of success that works within the means of both organizations. Perhaps your company can utilize an existing technology solution to assist with measurement. America's Charities Engage CSR Solution provides a holistic, easy-to-use platform for collecting, measuring and reporting on results for things like online giving, volunteer management, grantmaking, matching gifts, donation drives, and other creative charitable giving and employee engagement initiatives. Talk to us about your objectives and we can give you a demo of how the platform can be used to address your unique needs.
- Impact can be measured by quantitative or qualitative data. Impact depends on what goals you set. What question(s) will your program evaluation answer? For instance, “How many students improved their grade level of reading” (quantitative) vs. “Did the students have a valuable, rewarding experience” (qualitative). You can take a similar approach to evaluating the impact the partnership has on your company. By using surveys, you can evaluate if your involvement in this nonprofit partnership has changed the employee’s (or another stakeholder’s) perception and loyalty to your company. Or when using employee evaluations, you can gauge improvement in skill levels of employees before and after volunteering with your nonprofit partner.
- Use Benchmarks and case studies as a roadmap for your partnership. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. America's Charities has a library of free resources and we also offer benchmarking and strategy development tailored to your company's specific interests and needs. Our Expert Advisory Services will give you a clear perspective of how you stack up to peers, and arm you with specific tactics and overarching strategy tailored to your company’s unique culture and interests.
Measuring the success of a nonprofit-corporate partnership doesn’t have to be hard. If you bring the right partners and experts together, and are honest and realistic about your objectives and expectations, your partnership can have a significant impact on the nonprofit and the community, while also benefiting your business.