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Where are the Impact Measurements in Corporate Giving Programs?

By Regina Sheridan & Gagandeep Kaur

The corporate world is notorious for collecting metrics to guide their business strategy. This is evident by executives’ fixation on cost-benefit analyses, return on investment reports and performance measurements. However, this rigor often seems to be absent when it comes to corporate giving programs.

A report by the Global Reporting Initiative, the University of Hong Kong and CSR Asia notes that corporations often track company outputs (e.g., money granted, hours volunteered by employees, products donated) and rely on anecdotal stories and individual testimonials to describe the impact of their programs on communities. In other words, many fall short when determining the actual effectiveness and impact of their social investments.

This lack of measurement rigor may be due to the fact that social giving makes up such a small portion of most corporations’ overall budgets. According to a 2010 Corporate Giving Standard survey, 184 corporations gave away a total of $15.5 billion in cash and products. While this is no small chunk of change, it only makes up 0.11% of these corporations’ revenue. Or perhaps it is because corporate giving programs are often designed to benefit the corporation (e.g., improving the corporation’s reputation, increasing employees’ job satisfaction), as much as it is designed to benefit the community.

Whatever the reason, we would argue that corporate giving programs could and should be more strategic, standardized, and transparent in their measurement and reporting. A good place to start is by using a standardized framework, such as those offered by the Global Reporting Initiative or the London Benchmarking Group. To get the “biggest bang for their buck” in community giving programs, corporations need to go beyond measuring their own performance and increasingly focus on measuring the value and impact of their investments on the communities they serve.