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Press Release
Report Provides First Benchmarks of Standardized Social Outcomes
04 April, 2019


Most Company-Supported Nonprofit Programs Achieve Targeted Goals

Most company-supported nonprofit programs are effective, achieving their targeted goals on average 82 percent of the time, concludes a new benchmarking report by The Conference Board. The report, Toward Standardized Social Outcomes for Companies, uses standardized metrics to measure social outcomes, enabling companies to more effectively report and benchmark the performance of their societal investments.

Sponsored by Moody’s Corporation, the report is produced in collaboration with the Mission Measurement’s Impact Genome Project® (IGP), a publicly-funded initiative to standardize social outcomes data. Spanning over 150 common outcomes, the IGP covers 11 social impact areas, including education, health, arts and culture, economic development and sustainability.

Social impact measurement continues to challenge funders, nonprofits and governments, as organizations seek to better understand and report their impacts on society. By calculating common, standardized metrics about social outcomes—specifically, the cost per outcome (CPO) and efficacy rate of social programs—the IGP provides funders and nonprofits comparable information about the performance of societal investments. The IGP is used by governments, corporations and foundations to benchmark social impact, design more effective interventions and learn what works. Companies interested in learning more about the IGP, its capabilities and partnership with The Conference Board can visit www.impactgenome.org or email info@impactgenome.org. The IGP also provides the social impact areas for a new survey of corporate societal investments conducted by The Conference Board, available for participation until mid-April at www.conference-board.org/societalinvestmentsurvey.

“The ability to benchmark social outcomes across a range of social impact areas means companies can be smarter about their societal investments,” says Alex Parkinson, Senior Researcher, The Conference Board. “This research will help companies set realistic expectations around what can be achieved through societal investments.”

The report – based on a pilot program of the initiative – provides a summary of 16 companies that participated in the IGP and whose funding contributed to nearly 650 nonprofit programs. The report examined the CPO and efficacy rates of 14 specific social outcomes, providing insights into the effectiveness of corporate societal investments, including cash and non-cash grants, and other social impact-focused initiatives. CPO and efficacy rates

of outcomes are calculated upon completion of a full calendar year cycle of a program or initiative. The report also features three case studies, including Moody’s, The Albertsons Companies Foundation, and The Allstate Foundation.

 “Being able to understand and interpret social outcome benchmarks means we can begin to answer crucial questions about their effectiveness and cost, and compare those results across sectors,” says Jason Saul, CEO, Mission Measurement. “As we gain a critical mass of participants in the research, we can glean even more detailed insights about social impact in every area.”

“At Moody’s, we appreciate the value that standardized, rigorous and comparable data adds to making better decisions—in our analysis and in assessing the success of our nonprofit partnerships,” says Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Moody’s Corporation, and President, Moody’s Foundation. “The Impact Genome Project strengthens our ability to drive social impact and connects directly to our leadership, contributing to transparent and integrated financial markets.”

Key findings include:

  • Most nonprofit programs supported by companies in the pilot benchmark are effective

All 14 social outcomes returned an efficacy rate of over 60 percent, meaning that most participants in the programs achieved the targeted outcome. Eleven outcomes returned efficacy rates of over 80 percent, demonstrating strong success. When planning their social investments, companies can use the efficacy rates of social outcomes to understand which outcomes are contributing most meaningfully to their overall social impact goals.

  • Knowing the CPO helps companies understand the total cost of ownership of achieving social impact

The broad range of CPOs outlined in the research reveals that some outcomes are more costly than others. Several factors contribute to the CPO, including, for example, the time required to achieve an outcome or the intensity of the programming. There is a risk that such high costs could be perceived negatively and result in funders shying away from supporting programs or interventions that target them. However, the knowledge should instead help companies understand the total cost of ownership of achieving social impact, allowing them to manage the expectations of both their nonprofit partners, by being clearer about funding patterns and priorities, and of their company leaders, by reporting early the number of social outcomes that can be attained through societal investments. Knowing where high costs exist—especially if they exist in short-term, lower intensity programs—could also be an opportunity for companies to have strategic conversations with nonprofit partners in the pursuit of greater efficiency.

  • Education is the social impact area in which companies pursued the broadest array of social outcomes Companies have shown interest in investing in a range of different levels of education, as they seek to spark interest in topic areas such as STEM (science, technology, education, and math) and develop the next generation of talent. Combined, these investments account for the largest portion of most corporate philanthropy budgets.[1] By having a better understanding of the education outcomes they are funding, and the cost and efficacy of those outcomes, companies can pinpoint specific areas that require additional resources or support to achieve overall social impact goals.
  • Companies might not be funding the social outcomes they think they are

Companies often choose nonprofit programs based on those programs’ perceived alignment with the company’s key focus areas. Upon closer review, nonprofits may be delivering outcomes in a different social impact area than expected. While this may result in ending certain nonprofit partnerships, it can also provide opportunities to sharpen a partnership’s focus. Companies often choose to collaborate with their nonprofit partners to develop new programs more aligned with corporate focus areas and expand the nonprofit’s program offerings and funding opportunities. For example, a company that invests in an arts education program in the pursuit of education outcomes might instead be contributing to outcomes in arts that deliver social impact in education. Companies should understand which social outcomes their societal investments are targeting to ensure their funding priorities are being met.

  • Companies seek data-driven social impact measurement tools to match their corporate data cultures Across all three case studies in this report, companies were very clear about the importance of making data-driven decisions for societal investments. Often, this approach reflected the companies’ approach to business. Whether a company is in the financial sector, like Moody’s and Allstate, or in the retail sector like Albertsons Companies, data is integral to its business and that spills into their social impact pursuits.

Source: Toward Standardized Social Outcomes for Companies, The Conference Board

To request a copy of the full report: courter@conference-board.org

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org.

About Mission Measurement

Mission Measurement is the leader in social sector data and insights that empower influential decision makers with a critical edge by connecting them to a new generation of research for standardizing, measuring, predicting and maximizing the return on investment in social outcomes. The Impact Genome Project® (IGP) is a field-wide, systematic effort to create the most comprehensive reporting standard for social outcomes, giving funders, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers a foundation on which to tailor their measurement of social impact and to make data-driven social investments, design and implement more effective programs, inform more meaningful research and, ultimately, solve social problems.


[1] André Solórzano, Giving in Numbers: 2018 Edition, CECP in association with The Conference Board, 2018.

For further information contact:

Carol Courter
1 212 339 0232
carol.courter@conference-board.org

Joseph DiBlasi
781.308.7935
Joseph.DiBlasi@conference-board.org

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