Thinking about impact for 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance

Where were you on September 11, 2001?  How has your life and community changed since then?  The upcoming 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance can be a time of profound reflection, and also an opportunity to think of service as a way to repair and improve our world.

Our role in this sector gives us a unique perspective as we evaluate CSR and volunteer programs on a daily basis. We are fortunate to work with clients and partners who, in inspiring commitments to community investment, are finding new and better ways to improve the world through service every day.  We’d like to share with you five things to consider when thinking about the impact of your own service programs.

  1. Focus on outcomes. The number of hours served, dollars contributed, and employees engaged in service are important to understand a company’s level of commitment to a cause. To understand the value of those investments however, it’s essential to examine the outcomes of service -- how a project changed the lives of community stakeholders, volunteers and beneficiaries.  Whatever types of community investment you’re making -- whether packing care packages for deployed military or providing hands on help in a local community, thinking about what constitutes a successful outcome of your work, and creating accountability measures (e.g., a brief survey or report back from a nonprofit partner) is a simple way to ensure your good intentions are translated to social value.
     
  2. Start small to measure big. Measurement can be daunting if you try to measure all components of your program. By prioritizing impact (results) over process (how you achieve those results), you can quickly narrow your focus to those indicators that really matter. Try starting with a simple survey of your nonprofit partner to understand the impact of your team’s service: for example, how many more people they could serve with the same or fewer resources, or how the service improved success rates?  Then, perhaps the next year, try rolling out a measurement program that incorporates measuring the impact of the service on things like skill development or engagement.
     
  3. Learn from others.  Corporations, nonprofits, and individuals are doing some great work across the social sector.  One way to learn from others is to research non-profits through Great Nonprofits by reading the reviews of nonprofits in your area.   Or, review the case studies of companies like Timberland, UPS, and Pfizer who have used measurement to improve the impact of their CSR programs.
     
  4. Listen to your stakeholders.  Through conversation, small focus groups, or the collection of qualitative survey data, you can learn what’s important to your stakeholders.  By taking the time to understand their motivations, goals, and needs, the volunteer programs you develop can be crafted to best serve those interests, and generate the greatest value value for all participants.
     
  5. Measure, refine and tweak, measure again.  It’s our mantra here. The programs with the most impact on their communities, their participants, and their businesses don’t look at measurement as a one time endeavor.  It’s an integral part of their programs.  Find out what works so you can do more of it; find out what doesn’t work, so you can intervene and improve.
Whether as a group, or as an individual, your participation during the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance can make a significant impact in our world.  To find opportunities to get involved, please click here.