Recently, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal recognized twelve companies with the Jefferson Award for Public Service. The selected businesses found similar benefits from contributing to their communities: it allowed them to use their own talents to make a difference, address issues important to the company, and helped their employees feel good.
For corporations where corporate giving is on a much larger scale, and has been institutionalized in the form of a foundation or other office, evaluating their corporate giving will extend beyond an informal analysis of these benefits. They may want to assess whether different funding strategies lead to specific community impacts; for example, Target has set very specific goals for putting more U.S. kids on the path to graduation, reducing its environmental impact and helping Target team members and their families live healthy, balanced lives.
At the Improve Group, we use a three-step approach to evaluating our own corporate giving.
- First, we are clear about our goals. At the Improve Group, our goals are: (1) make a difference on the causes that touch our hearts; (2) use both talent and money to make a difference; (3) give our employees meaningful experience as we make a difference; and (4) find and nurture new business opportunities.
- The scope of our giving is fairly small, so the second step – gathering data about these goals – is pretty informal. We gather stories about how our work was used, ask our pro bono clients to evaluate our services, and ask our employees to share feedback about their preferences.
- Finally, we use the information to reflect and strategize. We work on an annual cycle, and use our annual retreat (usually in late Fall) to discuss our experiences over the previous year.
How does this align with evaluation of corporate giving in other companies? Each company uses different strategies. For example, Carlson Company uses its corporate giving to engage employees in making decisions and in community outreach through their 12 days of giving program, so success is based both on who is served and how employees got involved. Others build long-standing relationships to make a difference in one particular cause, like Baker Tilly’s support of VEAP; the partnership leads to new ideas and programs. The one common thread across companies investing in their communities is that all report being invested in the triple bottom line: doing good things for people, that are good for the broader community, and ultimately good for business.
Posted: December 19th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Improve Groove Newsletter | Tags: Baker Tilly, Carlson Co, corporate giving, evaluation, Improve Groove, Improve Group, Jefferson Award, Leah Goldstein Moses, Target, VEAP | Comments Off
Have you heard of big data? If not, a recent article in the New York Times provides an excellent overview. If so, you might be thinking, like I am, what the implications are for you, the way you work and the way we understand our world. You might also be wondering why this is a hot topic now.
A few major factors are leading big data to be a current hot topic – and these same factors also greatly affect evaluation, research and planning:
- We live our lives in ways that leave bits of data behind. From purchases made with a credit/debit card, to books checked out from the library, to visits with doctors, there are records. Even when your records are anonymous, they can be linked together OR combined with hundreds of other people to understand patterns. A recent blog and a video describing how your data is used, even when it isn’t linked to your name.
- Computers can do massive amounts of data crunching for us that wasn’t possible years ago. All of that data was cumbersome to manage and analyze without that computing power. Now, if you want to know the likelihood that someone who purchased matches did so because they’ve taken up smoking or because they are going camping, you can come up with a fairly good guess with a few clicks of a mouse. And, while we purchase fairly expensive licenses for statistical software to make our lives easier, you can have the same capabilities through free, open-source options such as R if you are willing to invest in learning how to use them.
What are the implications? Consider the following:
- If you have big questions, big data is a goldmine. Imagine a question like that posed by Target – can we know if someone is pregnant before they even tell us? While that might seem a little creepy, there are other questions that the answers could be put to very good use by people in the social sector. Imagine answers to questions like: what circumstances lead people to binge drink? What triggers people to start smoking after successfully quitting? What communication patterns help or hinder us in the workplace?
- Big data can also help if you want to explore options. For example, split tests, with a long history in the commercial sector, are becoming more common in the social sector. In split tests, you try a few different messages or approaches and find out the results. The recent Crisis Connection efforts to try text messaging as a strategy to prevent suicide is a great example; they can see differences in who accesses their services, when, and the ultimate result when people reach them by phone or email.
- Would you be willing to opt-in to have even more data gathered if it meant improvements in health or other services? Each year, hundreds of people sign up for medical trials. If some data was gathered automatically – for example, your scale transmitting your weight or your phone tracking how many steps you’ve taken in day.
How might you use big data? What are your concerns about how it is used?
Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation | Tags: communication patterns, Crisis Connection, data, evaluation, Improve Group, Leah Goldstein Moses, New York Times, research, Target | Comments Off