Blogs & Comment

Accountability for Community Investment

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend Canadian Business For Corporate Responsibility’sAnnual Summit on CSR on Monday. However, my colleagues who were there reported that one of the most important gaps that was flagged by presenters and participants is the need for greater accountability in this area – especially in the current economic climate. This is consistent with what we hear from our clients and from participants at Impakt Workshopsthat we’ve conducted over the last few months.
While there are accepted evidence-based standards for evaluating the environmental aspects of CSR, the ability to get an accurate reading of social/community impact remains elusive. As a result community investment mangers don’t have the ammunition they need to effectively defend the value of their programs when executives start to ask the questions that would apply to any aspect of business: Why are we investing in the community? What is the value to our business? What would be the downside of not doing as much in this area? How are we tracking the performance of our community investment program?
Most community investment and CSR managers simply aren’t able to answer these questions and their programs (and sometimes their positions) aren’t as defendable as other corporate areas and functions that are more easily quantified. Even though the value of community investment on corporate and brand differentiation, recruitment and retention, and risk mitigation has been credibly researched and documented there is a danger that community programs aren’t as secure as they need to be because their contribution the bottom-line hasn’t been captured.
One option for managers is the very useful LBGmodel that is designed to maximize the impact of corporate community involvement programs. According to LBG their model is: a management framework to value inputs, assess outputs, and measure the impact.
My company Impakthas developed the Impakt Partnership Valuation Tool to help corporations determine the value of partnerships with non-profit organizations. The Partnership Valuation Tool focuses specifically on partnership programs because of the scale of investment, the expectation of ROI, and the high profile of these programs compared to other smaller community investments. Major partnerships with non-profits are usually the most conspicuous aspects of overal community investment programs and, as a result, get noticed by executives. I dont believe theres any other approach that pinpoints the business and social outcomes of major partnerships and helps managers increase their accountability for these key community investments.
I’d welcome feedback from readers about the ways in which they demonstrate the value of community investments and would be happy to provide more information about our Partnership Valuation Tool.