The Zen of Impact Measurement

Jul 28, 2014 1:15 PM ET
Mark Shamley shares how impact measurement helps corporate contributions professionals

By Mark W. Shamley , President & CEO, ACCP

As you might expect, in my role, I spend a good deal of time talking with Corporate Philanthropy professionals from around the country. These executives come from industries ranging from agriculture to technology; some have been in Corporate Philanthropy for years and others are relatively new to the profession. With very few exceptions, they share one thing in common – they are striving to find ways to achieve more with dwindling resources. Many, if not most, are also, by and large, somewhat stretched to capacity.

Corporate Philanthropy has evolved over the decade. Today, Corporate Philanthropy professionals are tasked with much more than allocating charitable contributions and attending fund raising events. The professionals of today must align corporate giving efforts to business goals, determine ways to engage employees in volunteerism, communicate effectively with the organization’s “C suite” and oh, while they are at it, ensure that any cause they associate with will not spark backlash among the corporation’s employees, supply chain, investors or customers. Given all this, it is no wonder that many are feeling like they are overwhelmed.

Much has been written about, and a simple Google search confirms, the need for charities to measure their impact. There is some debate and some discussion, however, I believe, and most reading this would agree, consensus is that in today’s world, a non-profit seeking funds must be able to quantify and qualify results. In other words, measure.

Conversely, there is very little written about how corporations should measure the impact of their giving. It should be noted that the ACCP 2014 Trend Report showed that 60% of the corporations responding planned to increase measurements in 2014, an increase of 14% from 2013.

W. Edwards Deming, noted America management guru, stated, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” I believe measurement is a competency that every Corporate Philanthropy executive must develop. And, bonus, I believe developing that skill will measurably (yes, it’s a pun) improve their lives as well. (That’s the Zen part.)

Allow me to explain. Impact measurement, sometimes referred to as impact assessment or outcome measurement or some similar variation, evaluates the effectiveness of an activity based upon the significance of the changes that result. That’s what impact measurement is. What impact measurement does is:

·       Informs you as to what is working;

·       Provides a means to qualify and quantify the data; and

·       Delivers concise information that can be used to effectively communicate with stakeholders.

When executives are equipped with the data provided from impact measurement, they gain the ability to plan and effectively manage programs, assess the benefits to the business and to society, and to evaluate where to best invest for the greatest outcome. 

Better data drives better decisions.

Less guess work means less stress.

Clearer communication results in fewer misunderstandings.

In other words, measurement brings an element of certainty to what can be a high-stakes guessing game.

One definition of Zen is: “a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It is also a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.”

Impact measurement’s deliverable, better data to enable better decisions and communication, ultimately leads to the ability to better perform and attain better results. In the end, this results in Corporate Philanthropy executives that are less stressed, more informed, and able to do more good with the resources they have.

The Zen of Impact Measurement is quite simply the ability to cut through the clutter and see what is.


Mark Shamley has been ACCP’s president & CEO since August 2007. Mark has more than 20 years of experience in corporate & public affairs, corporate social responsibility, business development and marketing gained with the Orlando Magic, Tupperware and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. For more information on ACCP, visit the website at Learn how to find your measurement Zen here.