Philanthropy is Getting Nerdier

Nov 1, 2013 3:45 PM ET

After listening to an episode of This American Life (#503 – I was Just Trying to Help, originally aired August 16, 2013), I was compelled to reflect upon the importance of data in philanthropy. 

The episode depicts an organization with a radical idea about charity.  The idea was born out of research and data.  The organization’s founders wanted to give their money to the charity that would do the most with their money, that would make the biggest impact.  As founder Michael Faye says “There are two questions that we wanted to answer about charities that we found hard. One is, where does my dollar go exactly? …. And two is, what's the evidence of impact? Not the anecdote, not the story, but real, scientific evidence…”

Faye’s questions are ones a lot of people who want to give are asking.  This is an important shift in philanthropy.  As episode’s author David Kestenbaum says “there does seem to be this shift that's happening, a shift away from glossy brochures and smiling children and happy anecdotes, a shift toward data. Philanthropy is getting nerdier.”

Just like it is important for charities and non-profits to be able to demonstrate the impact of their work, so to is it important for those investing in the community (in the very same organizations) to be able to demonstrate the impact of their investments.  In both cases, the way to do this is through keeping clear and thorough data.

I would go further than this story did.  Though I agree that data is the key to demonstrating your value, the door that that key opens is to a framework for comparison.  This framework is something that the SiMPACT Strategy Group offers not only to those with Community Investment portfolios and budgets through LBG Canada, but also to the organizations in which they invest through an analysis on Social Return on Investment (SROI).

These tools are great for demonstrating a portfolio or community organization’s true value, but they would be useless without reliable data as a means of comparison.  The current is quickly changing, which means it is no longer those organizations that have the happiest children on the cover of their brochures that are necessarily the biggest winners when it comes to funding.  It is no longer the biggest portfolios that get noticed and lauded.  It is what you DO and how you SHOW it that is important.

No one wants to throw money into the dark and hope that it’s doing good.  Investors want to know that their investment will make a positive impact.  Clear and thorough data along with the tools offered by the SiMPACT Strategy Group will help investors and community organizations alike realize those goals.


About SiMPACT:

SiMPACT was established in 2005 with a vision to support management systems and skill development in the areas of strategic community investment and social return on investment (SROI). 
SiMPACT is the facilitator of 
LBG Canada, a growing group of companies using the LBG Model as a management framework to maximize the value of community investment programs – for the community and for the business.  Companies involved in LBG Canada are achieving a higher quality standard in program design, resource allocation and evaluation of the community investments.  The increasing use of the LBG Canada logo in public reporting symbolizes a commitment to quality and good governance of the community investment portfolio.