Measuring the Social Impact of Goodwill Donations

Goodwill Industries' recently launched Donate Movement -- a marketing campaign to increase public awareness about the importance of donations -- has a new "Donation Impact Calculator" as a centerpiece.  Select the items you plan on donating, and it converts them to social services provided.  For example:

1 pair of shoes = 6 minutes of resume preparation

1 working computer = 8.1 hours of on-the-job training

Goodwill Social Impact Measure












This approach makes sense, since traditional goods donations are often dry, transactional (dropping off used items in a bin), and disconnected from the social value they create. But this tool would more accurately be termed an output calculator, for the social services that Goodwill provides as a result of the donation.

Truly measuring the social impact would go to the outcome stage: identifying the effect of that resume preparation or on-the-job training.

To be fair, the input units here (e.g., donated clothing, household items, etc.) are small, and the full investment required to achieve the targeted outcome (e.g., successfully preparing and placing the jobless into jobs) is large, so the typical donation will be just a tiny percentage of the targeted outcome.  For example:

The result, in either format, is not particularly satisfying.

So, perhaps some creative license on what constitutes 'impact' makes sense from a marketing perspective.  But for conveying real value, or evaluating the relative effectiveness of different programs, it's worth remembering that actual social impact requires just one more step of simple arithmetic.

Image: CC BY 2.0

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