How do we define and measure social impact?

February 26, 2010

Photo by spettacolopuro

This month’s Nonprofit Millennial Blogging Alliance (NMBA) topic relates to social impact and how we define and measure it.

So, what is social impact? Well, I did what anyone that has access to internet would do, I googled it. It seems there isn’t really a clear, precise definition for it. I couldn’t even find a definition on Wikipedia – the closest I got was Social Impact Assessment or Social Impact Theory. So, I am going to go with a mish-mash of definitions and partial definitions I found:

Social impact = the influences or affects an organization or group can have to impact people’s lives. This influence or affect increases with immediacy and strength, and can have both positive and negative social consequences.

So, to use an easy example: More and more people continue to join Twitter because they know more people who are on Twitter, their close friends are now on Twitter, and everyone seems to be joining Twitter. Hence, one would say the social impact of Twitter is quite large and continues to grow as its strength and immediacy grows.

For nonprofits, this would be used more in the sense of how a nonprofit taking advantage of social change to make a difference in people’s lives.

So, how would one measure social impact?

Well, since social impact is more that just evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention it would make sense that a simple evaluation wouldn’t be enough.

An interesting concept I came across was that one could put together an impact map, which will help organizations to clearly show relationships between inputs (resources) and outputs (activities, outcomes). Basically it helps an organization understand how they create change.

The impact map could be combined with a social impact assessment, which “includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.” This would allow a nonprofit to map the relationships and measure the change that resulted from those relationships.

A more government-type perspective on social impact assessment can be found here. Some may also go as far as measuring the financial return on a social impact using a social return on investment.

Check out some other perspectives on social impact and how to measure it from NMBA bloggers:

What is Social Impact? by Nonprofit Periscope

Measuring Social Impact (wait…what is social impact?) by Onward and Upward

Interactive Techniques to Facilitate Evaluation Learning

February 26, 2010

This was an interesting session that I attended at the American Evaluation Association’s Annual Conference. It had some great tidbits. Here are a few things I wanted to share from the session:

The presenter discussed what portion of things people learn, and how they learn them. This is what she shared:
– People remember… 10% of what they read (book, handout)
– 20% of what they hear (head a lecture, podcast)
– 30% of what they see (look at displays, diagrams, exhibits)
– 50% of what they head AND see (live demonstration, video, site visit)
– 70% of what they say OR write (worksheet, discussion)
– 90% of what they do (practice, teach)

Manipulatives help learning!
– Manipulatives are objects that engage the learning in touching, feeling, and manipulation
– Stimulate brain either as part of the learning experience or provide opportunities for movement
– Examples: basket of strange feeling objects, pipe cleaners, clay, cards, paper table covers that people can doodle on

Current research establishes a link between movement and learning!
– Can use brain breaks, energizers to get people moving
– Example of energizer: when asking questions use movement “Raise your hand/clap if you use Twitter”

See posts about other sessions I attended at this year’s AEA: “American Evaluation Conference Summary Post

American Evaluation Conference Summary Post

February 26, 2010

I am currently in Florida attending the American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference. To follow conference related tweets, search #eval09 on twitter.

The days are jam-packed with fantastic sessions and I likely won’t get to post all of the interesting and useful tidbits until this weekend and early next week, but I am going to get them all up by the end of this week. This post will include links to the posts, as I post them:

Nonprofit Conference Etiquette

February 26, 2010

 

Photo by Ann Douglas

Last week I attended the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits joint annual conference with the Minnesota Council of Foundations and had the opportunity to meet lots of new great nonprofit folk, in addition to presenting two sessions “Become Social Media Savvy” and “Evaluation 101: Focus Groups and Surveys“.

While at this conference a group of were hanging out chatting about donor meetings and who should be going (a whole other post), when a woman from nonprofit came up to us and started explaining what her nonprofit did. This was great because who doesn’t love to hear about what all the amazing nonprofits in their community do? Once she was done explaining, she continued on to ask us to give. When we politely declined, she went on to a group sitting next to us, gave the same speech, and asked them to give. After they declined, she left the area and I can only assume went to solicit more gifts.

Typically I never mind being asked for a donation because nonprofits need money to run. But, I think many conferences actually state in their rules not to mention it is against conference etiquette to solicit your colleagues at a nonprofit conference. I mean, didn’t she realize that pretty much everyone there worked for a nonprofit organization, and if they all decided to go around and solicit we would have had over 1,500 people asking for gifts? It would have been mayhem not to mention annoying, and would likely result in people not going. So, the next time you go to a nonprofit conference, remember that this is the “safe space” that all of us can come together to learn – not your opportunity to solicit your colleagues.

p.s. I will be posting more info from sessions from the conference, in addition to stuff from next week’s American Evaluation Conference. I will also be posting slides from my two sessions on my website on Monday.

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

February 26, 2010

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don’t have to give your name/organization if you don’t want to- it can be anonymous)
Trista Harris, Executive Director at Headwaters Foundation for Justice and chief blogger at New Voices of Philanthropy.

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I check the list of most important things that I need to accomplish for the day, that I left for myself the night before and work on the task that will move our organization the furthest. It is usually something that needs some sort of strategic thinking, like our strategy to approach an institutional funder or developing key messages for a media interview.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
My favorite way to spend lunch is to meet with our individual donors. It is amazing to see what draws people to become a donor to a social justice foundation. Many of our donors are part-time or full-time activists for the causes that they care about and I always learn something new when I meet with them. I also really enjoy having lunch with other professional grantmakers in the Twin Cities. You can compare notes and strategize about how to effect the issues that your foundations are working on.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Headwaters support grassroots community organizing, so I really enjoy seeing how neighborhood residents will band together around a common cause, like getting rid of an environmental hazard in their neighborhood, and make real change through that collective action. Individuals working together can make the impossible, possible.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Believe in the power of each person and each dollar. When you meet with a group of volunteers that is starting to organize low-income residents to try to fix a systemic problem, like racial discrimination in housing, it can be really easy to underestimate the type of difference that they can make. I’ve learned through this work that those individuals can create permanent policy change that can impact thousands and thousands of people because they are drawing attention to something that is unjust.

There are grassroots activists that make $20-50 gifts to Headwaters and a lot of people might feel that a small gift doesn’t really make a big difference but what we have found is that our $20 donors can be our biggest advocates. They tell their friends why supporting community organizing is important and they start organizing donors. When you start adding all of those gifts together and you invest in cutting edge groups, amazing things happen.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Don’t forget to make sure that the pipeline of leaders continues behind you. None of us got where we are without mentors and people pulling for us, so make sure that you are that person for someone else.

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

February 26, 2010

1.What is your name, organization and job title (you don’t have to give your name/organization if you don’t want to- it can be anonymous)
I’m Christopher Whitlatch, Manager of Marketing and Communications at The Pittsburgh Foundation

2.What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I check our Twitter, Facebook and blog accounts. I answer any replies and feedbacks that I did not get to in the previous day. I check my email and flag items that need responses.

3.How do you spend your lunch break?
I take a break from my day to read the newspaper or book and grab a bite to eat most days. I try and lunch with colleagues or friends at least once a week to socialize.

4.Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy working with the people of the community. My position allows me to interact with donors, grantees, other nonprofits, and community members at large. I enjoy using tools such as social media to tell their stories.

5.Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
Participate and listen. My job is 2/3 listening to the community and 1/3 talking. With a concentration on using digital media, you need to acquire the skills of a storyteller, community builder, and learn when to participate and when to listen.

6.What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Don’t ignore the new digital tools – they are wonderful tools for nonprofits. In all the floods and fires that you deal with on a daily basis, remember the people you impact and interact with them on a regular basis. That is what makes my days so interesting.

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

February 26, 2010

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don’t have to give your name/organization if you don’t want to- it can be anonymous)
Sterling Harris, PAVSA (Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault), Community Education/Case Tracking Coordinator – which only describes maybe 1/10 of what I do!

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Check my phone and email messages. Anything to do with clients takes priority. I primarily work with women and girls age 14 and up who have been sexually assaulted. Lately, I seem to be working with more mothers whose children have been assaulted. Most have reported their assaults to law enforcement and I act as a liaison with the criminal justice system. Many need support in other areas of their lives and I do my best to be creative in finding resources and options that may be helpful to them.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
Usually with my amazing coworkers, sitting around the kitchen table. We often have women from the neighborhood who will drop in around the lunch hour. We will always drum up something so they can join us for lunch, if they choose.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
Working with women and girls. Many of the people who find themselves in our office have been discounted by so many people in their own lives. When people who have experienced sexual violence come here, they are valued as survivors and human beings who deserve justice and utmost care.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…never refrain from asking why sexual violence exists and why so many victims are treated so poorly in the system. The person would need to have an open mind, healthy coping skills, good boundaries, solid work ethic and a sense of humor

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
Take care of yourself and never give up.

I am looking for new nonprofit workers to be featured. If you want to share a day in your life, please email me – kristen@advancementcompany.com

Reader Question: Personnel issues at board meeting

February 26, 2010

Photo by Marco Bellucci

I work for a small non-profit for over 5 years. We have an Executive Director and three staff. In the past we have been sponsored by other 501c3’s and fell under their board of directors. As of this year, we have our own 501c3 and a new Board of Directors, 6 people who have never served on an active board. Our Exec. dir. has had some experience with Boards but not enough to guide them as to what they should do.

That’s the background….now here is the problem. The Exec. Dir. recently at a Board Meeting brought up personnel issues and in the notes first and last names given. (Is this a problem with confidentiality?) Also, the problems stated were untrue or misrepresented. Neither person has had a previous conversation with the director either before or after this was discussed with the board. What should be done?

First, I am not an employment lawyer, so I do not know the law surrounding confidentiality.

Now with that being said, the Executive Director can definitely (at least in my experience) bring up personnel issues and state specific names and issues at board meetings. In fact, many do when looking for guidance on issues. Particularly in small nonprofits. With that being said, those names are NOT typically published in the minutes, nor are the specific details. Typically the minutes will say something like “Staff issues discussed.” or something along those lines.

I would advise the staff who feel wronged to do two things. First, I would talk to the ED about having the specific names and issues removed from the meeting minutes. Instead, I would request similar wording to what I suggested above. Second, you have the right to talk to the board or board members. Many nonprofits have a grievance policy that advises staff what to do in the case of a grievance with the ED (typically involves going to the board). Since I don’t know the specifics about the issues, I’m not sure what the best course of action here is. Since you found out via the meeting notes/minutes, you definitely have the right to contact the board members and note you would like to provide additional information to what you saw in the minutes.

Have your own question? Email me – kristen@advancementcompany.com

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

February 26, 2010

Photo by Leo Reynolds

1.The “Three R’s” of Fundraising Letters by Step by Step Fundraising

2. 5 Mistakes Nonprofit Websites Make by Blackbaud

3. ROI of Listening: 17 Things to Do with What You Hear by Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

February 26, 2010

1.What is your name, organization and job title (you don’t have to give your name/organization if you don’t want to- it can be anonymous)
I’m Luise Barnikel, Sales and Marketing Associate at IssueLab.

2.What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
I get some cold water from the fridge, open our windows and sit down to check email and my calendar for the day. Depending on how many items are still on my list from the day before, I also spend a bit of time looking at our social media groups and accounts. A fairly routine hour of my mornings is spent going through my reader to get newest blog posts and third sector news, including feeds about comments I’ve made or posts I’ve written. It’s important to listen and reply to these.

3.How do you spend your lunch break?
Recently I’ve been trying to spend a bit of time eating or going for a walk outside. I’m happy that’s an option after this seemingly eternal and frigid Chicago winter. Still, I spend many of my lunch breaks eating at my desk. When that’s the case, I try to do some off-screen reading (here at IssueLab there’s always a great nonprofit report floating around!), or check into news and other sites that give me a break.

4.Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy it when people find IssueLab’s work and tools helpful. It’s not only my job at IssueLab, but also IssueLab’s mission to nonprofits to help folks communicate. When that gets done effectively and we can see the results through more traffic on our forum, more research contributors or more organizations partnering on our services, it’s very rewarding.

5.Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
…be persistent! It’s difficult to build a solid brand and get attention on a small budget. On top of taking every good opportunity to get your word out there, it’s important to follow-up and build meaningful connections – and that takes time.

6.What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
You’re important. Don’t get discouraged and be patient. Especially now, many nonprofits are dealing with (even) smaller budgets. Everything is a process, and it might take a while to see results of your marketing efforts. It’s important to measure returns and evaluate your work, but giving it your all is the best you can do.

I am looking for new nonprofit workers to be featured. If you want to share a day in your life, please email me – kristen@advancementcompany.com