“It’s critical for social enterprises to clearly communicate their social impact—not only for the purpose of transparency, but so that they can also leverage that market differentiation through their sales and marketing efforts.”
—Allen Proctor, president & CEO, SocialVentures
When Allen Proctor, president & CEO of SocialVentures, and Sheri Chaney Jones, president & CEO of Measurement Resources Company, met during a Women’s Small Business Accelerator Mentor Connection event, they fell into a conversation about how nationally, periodic community reports are published, often comparing their philanthropic activities to that of a peer city. But what they agreed seemed to be missing was a clear, definitive source for metrics to track and measure outcomes consistently among markets, and recommendations that would provide a path forward. Through this exchange, they discovered that Sheri’s passion for measurement was an equal match for Allen’s fervor for social enterprise.
SocialVentures is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting social enterprises—businesses that intentionally integrate social impact as a non-negotiable component of their business model. In 2016, the organization launched efforts to uncover its own revenue-generating opportunities. In an early focus group study conducted by Lextant, participants identified trust as being a primary driver for consumers to do business with social enterprises. So it was imperative that SocialVentures’ new service enhance consumer trust in social enterprises.
In March 2017, SocialVentures began to have conversations with the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio (BBB). The BBB’s brand is rooted in consumer trust as a key attribute in order for businesses to succeed. Armed with BBB’s brand alignment with trust, SocialVentures’ desire for social enterprises to differentiate themselves in the marketplace based on their social impact, and MRC’s experience measuring social impact, the three organizations partnered to pilot a program among local social enterprises and consumers.
This social impact validation pilot program, funded by a grant from the National Council of BBBs, took place between January 2018 and June 2019, with 13 Central Ohio participating social enterprises. Measurement Resources developed the measurement framework, which included approximately 20 measures. This approach was much more manageable compared to IRIS+, managed by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), which provides organizations with more than 2,500 measures from which to select.
“The real genius behind Measurement Resources’ framework methodology is—in order to track progress against the local community’s goals, you have to aggregate the data,” said Allen Proctor, president and CEO, SocialVentures. “And having a limited number of measures to choose from made it easier for us to accomplish this.”
The pilot program verified that Measurement Resources’ framework methodology worked. All of the pilot participants successfully selected their social impact measures from the framework’s set of measures, which they were then able to use to collect data—validating that the social impact their social enterprises claimed to be achieving was in fact legitimate.
With the pilot underway, SocialVentures, with the help of Measurement Resources, conducted market research to determine the perceptions of consumers when presented with social enterprises’ statements of social impact and a validation seal, as well as social enterprises’ willingness to pay for validation. Based on the findings, SocialVentures took a data-driven approach to recalibrate its offering. SocialVentures pivoted to launch a new Impact Assurance program in early 2020. Taking learnings from the impact validation pilot and the market research, Impact Assurance is designed to help address the growing demand for reporting related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The service is still based on Measurement Resources’ framework, and the revenue SocialVentures generates will contribute to the organization’s ability to reduce its reliance on grants and fundraising, while advancing the products, services and social impact of the nearly 100 social enterprises throughout Central Ohio.
SocialVentures’ pilot program also surfaced the growing need for a solution specifically designed for social enterprises, collective impact groups, and other collaboratives, to help them track, measure, manage, and communicate their social impact. To meet this growing demand, Measurement Resources set out to establish a new sister company, SureImpact, in late 2018.
SureImpact is a flexible, cloud-based software platform available to mission-driven organizations, allowing them to easily manage, measure and communicate their unique social impact. Measurement Resources and SureImpact, along with SocialVentures, will continue to collaborate on social impact-related offerings—SocialVentures from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social enterprise standpoint, and SureImpact from a broader social sector perspective.
If your organization would like to learn more about how Measurement Resources and SureImpact are working to move missions forward, please contact Measurement Resources to schedule a free phone consultation. To learn more about SocialVentures, please visit the organization’s website.