Tracking Social Impact with Ashoka Changemakers: How Dreams for Kids is Getting it Right

April 18, 2012 at 6:31 am

Wonderful news! Investing In Communities is excited to announce a new partnership with Ashoka Changemakers. As a Funding Partner on Changeshops Beta, IIC will require all funding recipients to set up a free Changeshop so they (and we) can track the social impact of IIC’s funds.

What is social impact, anyway? When we talk about measuring social impact, we generally mean measuring social or environmental outcome – the result of implementing a program, producing a good, or consuming a product or service.  Outcomes are distinct from outputs – the amount of goods produced or products delivered [1].

Create a Changeshop

Grow and track your impact – and we mean your outcome!

And why is this distinction important? Suffice it to say that the past ten years have seen an incredible upsurge in both the intensity and extent of outcome-oriented philanthropy [2]. Put another way, let’s face it: tracking the impact of social ventures has become an integral factor in determining which organizations receive funding. Foundations, corporate donors, and the government are all starting to evaluate impact. Funding is scarce, and you don’t want your organization to miss the boat. But it’s not just about funding. The real goal of impact assessment is to understand how to better serve your beneficiaries. (To read more about the broader implications of this industry shift to outcome-oriented philanthropy, we encourage you to check out a recent article by IIC’s Colleen Poynton: “The Challenges of Measuring Impact Assessment”).

With these two objectives in mind – funding and social good – let’s look at just how Investing In Communities’ partnership with Ashoka Changemakers will help nonprofits, consumers, and real estate professionals make a difference in their communities. 

The Challenges of Measuring Social Impact

April 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Read the full article at Sustainable Brands.

Social ventures are launching rapidly across the globe and striving to build sustainable business models that drive social or environmental progress. Yet to achieve progress through enterprise, social entrepreneurs must confront a challenge that has long plagued the nonprofit sector – quantifying and tracking social impact.

Substantive impact measurement can be costly and complex, but it’s critical for social ventures pursuing greater scale and efficacy. Recently, sector heavyweight Ashoka launched an open resource that will encourage and facilitate impact tracking across the social change sector – to the benefit of social entrepreneurs, ventures, funders, and investors globally.

Colleen Poynton

Post by Colleen Poynton, Manager of Business Strategy and Development at Investing In Communities

When we talk about measuring social impact, we generally mean measuring social or environmental outcomes – i.e. the result of implementing a program, producing a good, or consuming a product or service.  Outcomes are distinct from outputs – the amount of goods produced or products delivered.[1] While traditional business is concerned with profitably generating outputs, a social enterprise must produce outputs profitably (or at least sustainably), while also advancing a desired social or environmental outcome.

Unfortunately outcomes are not as easily quantified as outputs. They are messy results of numerous variables, only a few of which a social enterprise can hope to influence effectively.[2] The measurement challenge that social businesses face is to demonstrate a connection between output (say, # jars of honey made by formerly incarcerated workers) and outcome (i.e. increased employment and reduced local recidivism rates), and to describe that connection quantitatively (i.e. “Our operations lowered recidivism by 15% relative to control populations over 5 years.”). Quantifying and tracking this relationship is costly. It requires greater data collection and analysis upfront (before launch) as well as over time….

Read the rest of Colleen’s article at SustainableBrands.Com

Deals that Make a Difference: A Beautiful New Space and Professional Furniture for Delta Institute

April 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Delta Institute’s long-range vision is to transform the Great Lakes Region into the center of the rapidly growing green economy.

And now the follow-up you’ve all been waiting for: so how did Delta Institute use its over $10,000 in funding from Investing In Communities?

In addition to getting a beautiful space at a very affordable rent, Delta used its no-cost funding from Investing In Communities to buy the furniture necessary to make its new office space truly professional. In fact, we were thrilled to get a sneak peek at their new space! And wow – check out the number on that check. What could your favorite nonprofit do with that kind of funding?

Chicago-based Delta Institute generated over $10,000 in free funding for itself by working with a socially responsible real estate professional.

Want to learn more about how this deal made a difference for an amazing nonprofit? Make sure to check out our first post in this two-part series about Delta Institute’s nearly $11,000 in free funding.

Want to Grow Your Personal Brand? Start By Giving.

April 3, 2012 at 8:30 am
Colleen Poynton

Post by Colleen Poynton, Manager of Business Strategy and Development at Investing In Communities

You’re still in real estate. Still. As in – still after one of the worst downturns an industry has ever seen, you’re still in it. Why?

Why do you do what you do? You help people purchase and sell property. You help companies find the right space, or landlords find the right tenants.

If you stuck out this recession, the odds are decent that your job isn’t just a paycheck.  There’s a reason you do it. When was the last time you shared that reason with a potential client?

“People buy things from people they like and can relate to.” This great insight is from an article by Lambeth Hochwald over at Entreprenuer.com. Simon Sinek puts it another way – “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Let’s translate these observational statements into actionable business strategy: If you want to establish trust, loyalty, and a productive business relationship you need to create a connection with potential clients.

Hochwald’s article offers several good recommendations of how to build that connection, but point #4 may be the most critical, and I think, the most frequently misinterpreted: “Talk about yourself.” You probably already do this – sort of. You tell clients all about your expertise, your past success, your certifications, client endorsements, etc…etc…

You tell them how you’ll meet their real estate need, but do you ever tell them why?

Perhaps you love to help create strong, vibrant business districts in your city. Perhaps you have a passion for homes and interior spaces – for their idiosyncrasies and personalities. Perhaps you’re a life-long resident of your city/town/county and you know the neighborhoods/schools/parks/local gems better than anyone. Maybe you just really get a kick out of making clients happy.

For some excellent insight into why the WHY is critical, watch this great Ted Talk by Sinek.[ted id=848]

Okay, so back to point #4.

The author also suggests that you share a personal fact about yourself (not too personal) – one a customer can relate to. Maybe you volunteer at a local shelter, tutor kids on the weekend, lead a scout troop, or do pro-bono web development for nonprofits (call me). Whatever it is – odds are there’s something other than work that makes you tick. That human element is – surprise – something your clients happen to share.

Point 5 in this article is also essential. Now that you’ve opened up a bit, sit back and listen. What’s important to the person across from you? What makes them tick? Do you share a common passion, conviction, or hobby? If the answer is yes, you’ve successfully laid the foundation for an authentic relationship – one that just happens to involve a business transaction.