Blog: Impact Reporting: Corporate community investment isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ 

By Jessica Wettstein

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According to the influential Edelman Trust Barometer, 75% of people agree that a “company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions of the communities in which they operate.”  It’s no wonder then that companies are increasingly being questioned about the contribution they make to the communities in which they source, employ as well as distribute products and services.

The idea that businesses flourish in vibrant societies is not new – the business case for strategic philanthropy and corporate community investment is widely documented, with clear benefits for both the company and communities.  Still, many businesses face challenges around its measurement and reporting.

What is the problem? 

Businesses are spending millions of dollars on corporate community investment. In 2016, LBG members’ alone contributed over $3.3 billion to communities.  With so much investment at stake, you would expect companies to evaluate and understand the impact they are having.

Yet research by Corporate Citizenship points towards an ‘impact-aspiration’ gap:  three quarters of companies aspire to achieve long-term impact with their corporate community investment but less than one quarter currently feel that their organisation is delivering that due to confusion over how and what to measure.

In Asia more specifically, a study of members of the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN)[1] shows that a good 25% have no measurement approach whatsoever.  Another 19% use an in-house approach that only includes storytelling and pre-investment data focusing on contributions and outputs, not business and community impacts.

This approach to reporting has led to some skepticism towards corporate community investment with it being perceived as an altruistic add-on, disconnected from companies’ core activity.

Check list for good corporate community investment reporting

So what steps can companies take to overcome this skepticism and advance their measurement and reporting?

The first step is to identify an appropriate framework for undertaking measurement, for example applying LBG’s flexible and straightforward inputs-outputs-impact model. 

Then, with the data in hand, companies need to communicate the results effectively.  This is an important part of accountability and this quick check-list can help to maximise the use of your data and enhance your reporting: 

  1. Focus on the data that matters: Pick the statistics which best showcase your impact and tell your story
  2. Don’t focus just on outputs: Talk about the impact – the changes your contributions make for the communities and for the business
  3. Include testimonials: One great quote from a service user on how their life has improved because of your work can effectively bring programmes to life
  4. Make use of multimedia: Include photographs and videos capturing moments and work in action to illustrate the real lives of the beneficiaries and the contributions of your employees and business
  5. Avoid Jargon: Keep it simple and your audience will be receptive to your message.
  6. Story-telling: Ensure you are getting across your key messages through the right channels to reach target audiences. Include the right balance between quantitative (big numbers) and qualitative (human stories) information. 

[1] AVPN is a unique funders’ network based in Singapore committed to building a vibrant and high impact philanthropy and social investment community across Asia.