Can You Calculate Investment?

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This question comes up all the time – how do you apply traditional marketing metrics to community investment? How can you actually measure the impact of time spent volunteering or the impact of a one-time donation to fight AIDS or a clean water drinking initiative in Africa?

Well, skeptics, there is hope. Aside from measures like employee satisfaction, positive press, and all the stuff one normally looks at (all valuable information), sites are offering cause-specific calculators that give you more drilled-down, and some might argue, more socially impactful information.

Take, for example, the Calvert Foundation. They have a “calculate your impact” tag at the top of their website, different from the much hyped Zero Footprint calculator. This one attempts to calculate the actual social return on your investment. For example, when I punch in a $5,000 donation, one-time, to a micro-lending organization in the domestic U.S., my social return on investment would finance 15.6 micro-enterprises and create 31.13 jobs – a calculation everyone understands.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a company’s role in its community can be a factor in increasing profitability, strengthening company brand and reputation, elevating employee morale and customer loyalty, increasing market knowledge, attracting and retaining employees, and encouraging product innovation, among others. These factors are already measured by a series of stringent factors, like actual amount donated per employee, amount of volunteer hours, and end results.

But as the advent of these online calculators continues to pop-up, the calculations and metrics that are applied to these initiatives will surely increase. And accordingly, so will everyone’s ability to measure their impact.

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