“To what end?”
A colleague of mine is fond of that saying. They’d say it almost like a refrain whenever we were making a decision or planning an initiative. A less generous phrasing would be “so what??”
When it comes to non-profits and how they measure their success, there’s often an outsized emphasis placed on output. For a health charity like Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, it might be the amount of money we allocate to funding research. For food banks, it might be the number of meals served. It might be the number of wells built or children sponsored. Or, the ever-tantalizing amount of impressions a website or awareness campaign generates.
Don’t get me wrong. These are good and worthy things to measure, but when it comes to understanding whether or not a non-profit is truly making a difference, they don’t always go far enough. Yes, funding research is important, but to what end? So what??
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
At Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, we’re about to embark on a new and ambitious strategic plan, with impact at its centre, both in driving what we do and determining whether or not we’re successful.
Is what we’re doing increasing quality of life for individuals living with IBD?
Is the research we’re funding moving the needle in understanding IBD and paths to treatment, management, and prevention?
Are we catalyzing communities of support, and more importantly, how is that making a difference in people’s lives?
These are just some of the questions we’re challenging ourselves to answer, and the measurements we’re holding ourselves to.
Choosing impact over output isn’t easy. External factors play a significant role in affecting these measurements. We’ll also need to be nimble and respond quickly if we’re not quite hitting the mark, even if we think our output is strong. That said, we’re confident that this will ultimately make the most difference to those that we serve, and quite frankly, set a high standard that we should always hold ourselves to.
Impact for a Better Future
Since this is the Accelerist blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how this approach can generate and build corporate partnerships. ROI is key to any successful partnership. On one side, a company will look for a commercial return – be it brand awareness, customer acquisition, employee engagement, etc. But where non-profits can deliver a unique return is demonstrating the social impact of a partnership. It gives a company the opportunity to share the difference they are making to their employees, shareholders, and customers.
It’s a little harder to measure and can be uncomfortable placing a good amount of your success on external factors, but committing to measuring impact over output can help non-profits literally make all the difference in the world.
Brian joined Crohn’s and Colitis Canada as Vice President, Development and Community Engagement in September 2021. A seasoned professional with more than 14 years of experience, Brian has led the strategy and execution of numerous aspects of non profit fundraising, including business development, sponsorship, major gift solicitation, volunteer support, and event planning. Most recently, Brian served as the Director, Corporate Engagement at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, leading organizational efforts in sponsorship and cause marketing, corporate philanthropy, workplace giving, and donor cultivation. His work includes securing and activating multiple title sponsors and lead corporate donors, as well as the A&W Burgers to Beat MS cause marketing campaign, a two-time winner of the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada Award.