What gets measured gets done

In my last blog post I talked about how non-profits can uncover their most powerful stories by analysing their Social Return on Investment, or SROI.  The first step towards understanding your SROI is to create a business plan that’s focused on your long-term goals.

Like your creed or mission statement, your goals should, as much as possible, guide everything that you do.  Every project you take on, event you create, or communications plan you draft, should have clear outcomes that align with your mission statement and business goals.

It seems simple enough, but for values-driven non-profits, having a business plan with associated metrics can seem better suited to the for-profit realm.  After all, they’re not in it for the money.

But I’m going to argue here that they should be, at least partially, about the money.  Or more accurately, the savings.  Non-profits can deliver services in a highly cost-efficient way; in doing so, they can create long-term social value that saves governments millions of dollars (note that the word “social” also refers to economic and environmental). In a sense, the term “non-profit” is bit of a misnomer.

Capturing the social value your organization creates will allow you to demonstrate the impact of donor dollars.  There are many other reasons why you should measure this, including:

  • Improved programme management, including more effective planning and evaluation
  • Increased understanding of the impact of your work
  • Stronger communication of the value of your work to ‘the people that matter’ (internal and external stakeholders)
  • Enhanced attention to the social, economic and environmental value created by your business or organisation*

In a future blog post, I’ll outline a step-by-step process that can help non-profits measure what gets done.

*Source:  London Business School and the New Economics Foundation. (2004) Measuring social impact: the foundation of social return on investment (SROI).

Social Return On Investment (SROI) for non-profits

The non-profit sector employs 1.2 million Canadians and raises $24 million for projects in Canada and around the world.  In 2012, over 13.3 million Canadians age 15 and over volunteered with a non-profit, and almost 84 percent of Canadians donated to one.

Non-profits are an important pillar in our society.  They play a significant role in the economy, in the lives of those they help or enrich, and in our national psyche, as they allow us to give back to a cause that’s bigger than ourselves.

Why then is it so hard for non-profits to measure the impact they have?  By measurement, I’m not talking about how many homework clubs run, endangered species saved, or schools built.  These are fairly easy results to track – and they are important.  But they only tell one side of the story.

The other side is the long-term value, or social return on investment (SROI) that non-profits create for society.  It’s unfortunate that this story rarely gets told, as it’s the most compelling one for donors to hear.

Measuring the SROI can be complicated and require resources, but the results will help non-profits make a stronger case for giving and ensure that they are spending their donor dollars wisely.  In my next blog post I’ll look at how non-profits can measure SROI and uncover their most powerful stories.

Advertising Canada’s Economic Action Plan

Photo Credit: John Geddes. Originally published in Maclean’s Magazine, Monday, October 22, 2012

I was in my car yesterday listening to a compelling show on CBC’s The Current called Canada’s Economic Action Plan (EAP): Is this Prosperity or Propaganda? The subject was the amount the government is spending on advertising the EAP.  The program looked at how effective the advertising campaign has been over time and asked who was benefiting.

Intrigued, I did a bit more research and learned that, from 2009 – 2010, $53.2 million in taxpayer dollars was spent on EAP advertising.   The spring 2012 television campaign alone cost the Finance Department $4.9 million. (The Toronto Star, Sunday, February 17, 2013)

In April 2012, the Privy Council Office conducted a post-advertising analysis that surveyed the impact of the campaign on 1,000 Canadians.   Of those surveyed, 33 percent could recall the ads, but only 20 percent, or one in five Canadians remembered any details.  Only seven percent were compelled to take action, such as go to the EAP website. (The Toronto Star, Sunday, February 17, 2013)

According to these stats, it therefore cost $22 to drive one person to the website or take some other action such as fill out a form, write a complaint or follow on Twitter.  In the same survey, the Privy Council analysis also noted a bump of five percent in government approval ratings between those who had not seen the ads and those who had.

The goal of the EAP campaign is to help provide Canadians with tools to improve their personal finances and boost consumer confidence.  Based on the above stats, do you think this is money well-spent towards achieving these goals?  I’d love to hear what you think.

Moving from communications order taker to strategic value creator

Source: forbes.com

Source: forbes.com

Have you ever experienced the following scenario:

The telephone rings and it’s your boss. “Hello Ms Communications Person.  Registration for the International Conference of The Circus Arts is dramatically down compared to previous years.  We need a marketing campaign to increase registration…Pronto!” Click.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of these calls, you’ll know that they can make you feel like you’re the one living in a circus. The questions that go through your mind may include:

  • Why did my boss choose a marketing campaign as the tactic to increase registration?
  • What does the conference manager think of this approach?
  • Why is registration low this year anyway?
  • Is this the right approach to solving the problem?

Marketing communications professionals owe it to themselves and their employers to move from being “order takers” to “value creators.”  There are many models out there that can help you become more strategic.  A really useful model for communicators is called “ComAdd” for Communication, Analysis, Design and Development.

I recently learned about ComAdd in Ithaca College’s course Needs Analysis and Performance Consulting.  Developed by Diane Gayeski, Dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and founder of Gayeski Analytics, this model can help you establish the communications function as a strategic asset in your organization.

Here are some tips inspired by the ComAdd model that can help move you from being an “order taker” to a “value creator”:

  1. Identify the performance gap.  This is done by describing the big picture goal and contrasting it with the current reality.
  2. Ask why certain performance issues or behaviour are occurring.  What are the barriers, incentives and disincentives to doing well?
  3. Could the job, environment or work process be redesigned?  As Gayeski notes, “Most performance problems are the fault of the engineering of the organization, not the fault of individuals.  Most people come to work wanting to do a good job.” (SCM. Vol. 8, Issue 5, 2004)

The process of applying the ComAdd model is tantamount to peeling an onion.  Each layer must be appreciated before you can uncover the most appropriate solutions. What you discover may surprise you…and add another tool to your communications toolbox.

What’s your passion?

Source: Oprah.com

Source: Oprah.com

Last week I attended the launch of Genesis: UJA’s Centre for Social Innovation, which helps build the capacity of innovative non-profits in the Jewish community through mentorship and other opportunities.  The event featured guest speaker Paul Alofs, CEO of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and author of the book Passion Capital: The World’s Most Valuable Asset.

Alofs spoke about the “seven building blocks of Passion Capital” he outlines in his book: the power of belief; culture; courage; brand; resources; strategy; and persistence.  He asked us: what could you see yourself doing 24/7 and not notice the time go by?

His message immediately reminded me of what my former life/career coach Heather Joy Skelton, who tragically passed away from cancer in 2005, used to say:  “You need to get very very clear about what you want.  Too many people get stuck in the how.  Don’t worry about the how.  The universe responds to clarity.”

I’m not sure how much faith Alofs would put into a responsive universe, but this philosophy has guided my professional and personal life for many years.  Working as a marketing communications and project management consultant, I feel very privileged to help organizations get clarity on who they are, what their vision is, and provide a roadmap for getting there.  It’s indeed a labour of love and one that I could work at 24/7 and not notice the time go by.