Charity giving way to Social Investing

Measurement is hot

Less than a month ago I was noting the need for metrics for non-profits as I make my decisions on how to direct my social investing – not just giving to charity for the “feel good” reasons but actually looking at donations as an investment with a measurable return.

Turns out that measurement is quite the hot topic in the non-profit sector – sort of a tsunami that has quite a few folks living in fear of the day that they need to do something serious about measurement. Their fear is understandable. Good metrics are hard to come by.

They require good systems for collection and reporting, and efficient procedures for point of source collection without undue burden on already overburdened staff. But aside from the machinery that collects and reports, the big questions are what to collect and how to report, how to analyze to determine key findings and what to do about them.

These are systems and skills not typically found in folks that have made caring and giving, service delivery, their lifetime purpose.


Besides the metrics within an organization or associated with an initiative, there are comparative metrics and benchmarks needed to give perspective on these numbers. What are the standards for this kind of industry, cause, or initiative? Year over year numbers from one organization may sound good, but how are they relative to similar organizations – their competition, if you will.

Awards for transparency

I can tell you that I felt better about my donation to Covenant House recently when I saw a large notice in the Globe and Mail, that Covenant had won the 2009 voluntary section reporting award (for excellence in financial reporting transparency) in their size category issued by a prestigious group of folks who know a few things about numbers: Queens School of Business, Chartered Accountants of Ontario and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.


Another group that is attempting to put some standards in place is The London Benchmarking Group (Canadian branch is at It’s a community of companies working toward a higher standard in the management, valuation and performance measurement of corporate community investment. Worldwide, each branch is managed by a local host organization. In Canada it’s the SiMPACT Strategy Group, experts in social return on investment.


No doubt there will be more about the metrics associated with non-profits. It’s a lesson that the corporate world is still struggling with as their stakeholders demand more accountability and transparency. It will be no different for non-profits and their stakeholders.

1 comment
  1. Really appreciate the dialog. I think in many cases the stakeholders, in corporations and non-profit, assume these standards are already in place. However, as you mentioned, I think it’s best for all parties to have more comprehensive metrics.

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