COVID-19 has brought to the fore a community investment challenge that has been bubbling for some time: how do we ensure our resources are making a real difference?
Many corporate and community organisations are facing reduced budgets, funding and support and it is of increasing importance to ensure that the limited resources (of cash, time, products and services) are used to the greatest effect.
Strong partnerships are more important than ever: there is a need for clear and open dialogue about what needs to be achieved, the challenges faced and how, together, these can best be addressed.
Recently – and refreshingly – I have been talking to the Board of a charitable trust who are adamant that they must form partnerships and work with others to move the dial on any of the issues they seek to address. And they are equally adamant that they want to be able to see the results of their contributions: they want to know that they are making a difference to those communities and individuals whom they aim to support.
In general, this is not a new conversation. Many corporate and community organisations understand the benefit of being able to see what has changed as a result of their community programs. But equally, often it is just that: a conversation. Companies are often stumped about how to address this. Hurdles such as resource constraint, lack of understanding and partnerships that lack focus mean that the measurement piece of the puzzle is frequently missing.
So the challenge remains: how do you understand what is really being achieved through community contributions, projects and programs? How do you ensure that you are putting resources into areas that will deliver real benefit?
Here at LBG (formerly London Benchmarking Group), we highlight the importance of including measurement in your programs – not just so that you can shout about achievements (though that can be useful), but so that you can see whether the achievements are real. And so that you can adjust your program if, in fact, you aren’t achieving what you set out to do.
LBG has helped corporate organisations set up frameworks for the measurement and management of community investments for 25 years. Impact, or outcome, measurement has long been a key part of this.
What has become increasingly apparent is the need for strong partnerships in delivering tangible results. Our ‘LBG for Effective Partnerships’ training program was born of this – providing community organisations and social enterprises with a foundation upon which they can more effectively build those strong partnerships and programs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by even the idea of measurement, here are some simple tips to take on board in your journey to making a difference:
- Gain clarity about your objectives. What is the change that you really want to see? These generally incorporate desired outcomes for beneficiaries, but also objectives for the corporate organisation (e.g. licence to operate, employee engagement) and community organisation (e.g. increased capacity, stakeholder awareness). Challenge yourselves to identify very clear and targeted objectives – and communicate them. Which leads me to…
- Foster open communication. Be clear about roles, responsibilities, expectations and needs. Get on the same page with any existing or potential partners. In a recent series of support webinars we ran, Stockland spoke about how they are working closely with community partners to understand and address their changing needs in this COVID-19 environment. Be proactive in this – it can make a world of difference.
- Just make a start. On the face of it, measurement can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Choose one program. Clarify your objectives. Consider: what one or two things could be measured that would start to give insight into whether your program is on the right track? And don’t be afraid to adjust your course as you go.
Measurement is key to understanding whether resources are being directed effectively. Dip your feet in. There’s little to lose and everything to gain.