How We Know We’re Making a Difference

In our conversations with partners, prospective partners, educators, and students around the country, EVERFI is often asked: How do you know you’re making a difference?

There are a lot of ways we can answer that question — our online education courses are evidence-based; we measure the knowledge, attitudes, and planned behaviors of students through our learning platform; through conversations between our in-house experts and external advocates in the communities we serve; by developing and sharing best practices, convening practitioners, and establishing industry benchmarks. There is one more reason which we don’t talk about often: We know we’re making a difference because our investors demand it of us, and hold us accountable for it.

Investment firm TPG started The Rise Fund, an impact investment fund, in 2017. EVERFI was The Rise Fund’s inaugural investment that same year. As interest in impact investing — the idea of making investments, for financial return, in companies that also deliver environmental or social good — has grown, so have the questions of how to measure “impact” and how to compare financial returns to societal returns, so that investors can consider both when valuing an investment.

In response to these questions, The Rise Fund, in partnership with nonprofit and impact investing consultancy Bridgespan Group, has developed a metric they call the Impact Multiple of Money (IMM). As outlined recently in the Harvard Business Review, IMM is a forward-looking measure that allows investors to project and measure the value, to society, of every dollar invested.

The IMM approach relies on published, peer-reviewed research that links the output of a company — in our case, the learners we train through our digital education courses — and the impact on society of that output. For EVERFI’s higher education business, The Rise Fund identified two areas where we make a quantifiable impact*:

  1. Alcohol abuse prevention training for undergraduate students, through AlcoholEdu. A 2010 randomized control trial showed an 11% reduction in alcohol-related harms when students participate in AlcoholEdu. IMM connects this to National Institutes of Health estimates of the incidence of alcohol-related deaths among college students and calculated that AlcoholEdu will have saved as many as 36 lives by the time EVERFI reaches 2.2 million students taking the training. Using Department of Transportation guidance for calculating the economic value of a life, the economic value to society of AlcoholEdu could be $194 million, or $88 per student trained.
  2. Sexual assault prevention training for undergraduate students, through EVERFI’s Sexual Assault Prevention courses. In this case, The Rise Fund looked to a 2007 study of a sexual assault prevention course that resulted in a reduction in sexual assault among students who participated in the prevention program. Applying this reduction to estimates of sexual assault on campus, the IMM estimates that EVERFI could prevent nearly 38,000 sexual assaults across 2.6 million students participating in our training. To estimate the economic impact of averting sexual assault, The Rise Fund used research from the National Institutes of Health to arrive at a figure of as much as $632 million — $243 per student trained — and noted that the true impact could be much higher given that incidents of sexual assault are underreported.

To arrive at their final assessment, The Rise Fund applies risk factors to their research-based estimates of potential value to society. They adjust for the possibility that EVERFI may not reach the projected number of students over the evaluation period. They also score the research they use for both quality and relevance: Is the research based on a randomized control trial, or observational research? Is the product studied the same as the product being evaluated (as is the case with AlcoholEdu), or just similar (as with the Sexual Assault Prevention courses)?

After adjusting for risk, the IMM for our higher education courses estimates that EVERFI can deliver $75 in social benefit for every AlcoholEdu learner, and $134 for every Sexual Assault Prevention learner.

From 2017 through January 31, 2019, EVERFI trained 1.4 million students on alcohol abuse prevention and 1.8 million students on sexual assault prevention. Per IMM, this scale drives more than $346 million in societal benefit resulting from EVERFI’s higher education practice ($105 million for AlcoholEdu and $241 million for Sexual Assault Prevention).

EVERFI reports progress against IMM expectations to our Board, alongside financial and other metrics. We are accountable for the number of students we train and promote to The Rise Fund additional opportunities to quantify the value of EVERFI’s training as the research base around our topics grows.

The Rise Fund’s IMM metric gives EVERFI a framework for quantifying and communicating our social impact as seriously as we do our financial returns. Yet the cornerstone of our impact remains our partnership with our higher education partners across the country. We maximize this impact by collaborating with our partners to enhance existing and develop new prevention programs, and by expanding our partner community so we reach as many students as possible. Together, we deliver impact. While this impact can be quantified in terms of economic value to society, it is essentially reflected in negative outcomes avoided and lives saved and improved.

* Note: The projected reach and financial data in this post, like the HBR article, are representative, as actual numbers are confidential. Research data is actual.