The importance of outcome measurement in defining CSR success

Outcome measurement and corporate social responsibility

Open any Corporate Social Responsibility report, and chances are you will see glossy photos of employees picking up trash or painting a building. Amid the photos, statistics highlight the hours volunteered, dollars donated, and charities supported. The photos and statistics provide proof points for CSR programs, but do they accurately depict the impact companies create in the communities in which they operate?

Many corporations stop their CSR tracking with outputs – hours volunteered, dollars donated, and charities supported. They fail to ask themselves the question, “Why would our stakeholders care?”

We can take a hint from foundations and other grantmaking organizations to better report upon our CSR impact. These organizations utilize the outcome measurement approach to track inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. This model more accurately answers the question, “so what?”

Say one of your CSR programs is a volunteer program that matches your employees with students for one-on-one mentoring and tutoring. The inputs include the volunteers, books, writing utensils, computers, budget, and any other inputs needed to operate the program.

Activities may include helping with homework, demonstrating computer functionality, and participating in any extracurricular activities that may boost the confidence of the students.

The outputs are the tangible results of the volunteer program – hours volunteered, numbers of students mentored.

The final and most important components of the outcome measurement approach are the outcomes and performance indicators. These components indicate the intended impact of the CSR program and the specific and measurable characteristics of the program.

The outcomes of a mentoring and tutoring program may include improved reading comprehension, increase in computer literacy, and increase in confidence and self-esteem. These outcomes indicate what you hope your tutoring and mentoring program may accomplish and can be jointly decided upon with your nonprofit partners.

In order to determine the success of the outcomes, program administrators determine performance indicators, these are the measurements of your outcomes.  Referring to our example of a mentoring and tutoring program, here are some sample performance indicators:

  • 75% of students improved standardized test scores
  • 89% of students surveyed revealed they had more self-confidence in school
  • 63% of students improved their computer literacy

Imagine how powerful your CSR reports will be with statistics that indicate the effectiveness of your programs. Your nonprofit partners will more accurately understand the impact of your partnership, your leadership and board will recognize the importance of your CSR programs, and your company’s programs will more clearly indicate positive transformation within your communities.

For any corporate group that wants to move the needle on their CSR reporting, we suggest you work with your nonprofit partners to determine the outcomes you hope to achieve with your programs. No one doubts the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in increasingly troubling times; however, it’s important to move beyond the vanity metrics and report upon real and sustainable change.