Emily Finkelstein

What kind of corporate social responsibility initiatives is your business undertaking?

From the ground up, managing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives or programs can feel like a daunting task, but companies can no longer afford to sideline efforts. Often, investing in impact is perceived as a bit of an intangible; a practice requiring a lot of time and money to yield results that are obscure or hard to track.

This impression was perhaps more valid in the past, but now there are established CSR methods as a guide and modern tools that can accurately calculate the returns, both social and financial.

What are the benefits of corporate social responsibility programs?

The benefits for businesses are clear: better public relations and monetary return. Giving back is more doable than ever and the advantages of CSR are undeniable; from consumer loyalty to keeping up with the competition and, of course, making a positive difference in society.

The key is to build a corporate social responsibility initiative with the proper infrastructure to effectively measure impact and ROI along the way. Follow the below steps to design a results-oriented program.

3 Tips for Measuring the Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives:

1. Set Goals That Establish The Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility

To start, organizations should establish project goals to serve as benchmarks for success and clearly communicate those goals and CSR benefits to employees. It is important to develop an overall impact strategy with long-term objectives (months and years ahead) and regularly measure your progress toward those future milestones. Think about the population(s) you wish to transform, how you will reach them, and the greater change you hope to see in the community. Also set short-term goals–potential early wins that could be shared externally with the public and internally with staff and executives to encourage program support and longevity. Think about landmarks you can easily report, such as how many events you organize, dollars you raise, and individuals you affect (in various ways) within a given quarter or another period of time. If you’re meeting your short-term goals, you should be on track to achieve the big-picture objectives. Not reaching these goals is an indicator that you need to make adjustments to your plan or process.

2. Calculate the Fiscal Value of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Successful corporate social responsibility initiatives focus on both social impact results and monetary gains. The impact multiple of money (IMM) metric was developed to calculate financial returns from philanthropic work. The IMM consists of six steps:

  1. Assess Relevance and Scale–before financially investing in corporate social responsibility initiatives, consider how well it fits with your company’s values and how vast the impact might be;
  2. Identify Target Social or Environmental Outcomes–your goals are set, now make a research-backed estimate as to whether those desired outcomes are achievable and measurable;
  3. Estimate the Economic Value of those Outcomes to Society–find a robust anchor study and/or field experts with economic insights relevant to your mission to help you project the financial benefits;
  4. Adjust for Risks–consider the quality of the anchor study and how closely it parallels to the characteristics of the CSR program, as well as context, income group, the similarity between the study scenario and your product/service, and projected usage;
  5. Estimate Terminal Value–determine the probability that both your outcome and social value will continue undiminished for five years;
  6. Calculate Social Return on Every Dollar Spent–take the estimated value of the social or environmental benefit of your corporate social responsibility initiatives and divide it by the total investment.

3. Tracking Results Shows The Advantages of Corporate Social Responsibility

If you’ve set short- and long-term goals and concluded that they are indeed measurable, per the IMM, then you can now track the impact of your corporate social responsibility programs and initiatives! Gather your team together to review the specific results of the impact and economic benefits so far in the process. Analyze how the data stack up to your goals and estimates. If the actual impact falls short of your goals, take the opportunity to tweak and improve the CSR program and also note what you’ve learned so you can apply it to future corporate social responsibility initiatives. If the data shows that you have met or surpassed your social and economic goals, congratulations! Report this progress to company leadership and enlist marketing and PR teams to help communicate those achievements publicly to build excitement and create goodwill between your business and community members and consumers.

This is the third and final post within the Investing in Impact Series. Look back at our first two posts, The Current State of CSR and Best Practices for Incorporating CSR into your Business.
This blog is based on the following white paper: Investing in Impact: How to make corporate social responsibility a core business function to grow brand loyalty and foster community engagement.

To learn more about CSR, visit:

Maximize Your CSR Impact

To make implementing your CSR initiatives easier, we put together our Investing in Impact white paper. This definitive guide to CSR strategy shares best practices and trends that will help ensure your success in making an impact.