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.

Public Benefit Corporations: providing a legal framework for investing in our communities

February 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Guest post by Layton Olson. Layton specializes in representing tax exempt community, trade, and professional organizations at Howe & Hutton LTD.

Layton Olson, Attorney with Howe & Hutton LTD.

Last month, a dozen companies committed to advancing social good filed to be classified as ‘Benefit Corporations’ in California. Their decisions represent a commitment to business strategies that systematically contribute financial, time, human, and other resources to charitable, educational and community improvement initiatives and institutions.  California has joined the six states – Vermont, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Hawaii- that have enacted so-called public benefit or “B Corp” legislation since 2010.  Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan and some cities have similar laws under consideration.

While traditional C Corporations are chartered to maximize benefit (i.e. profits) for shareholders, the B Corporation is legally chartered to consider and benefit stakeholders – a group that also includes employees, the environment, vendors, and the broader community…

Real Estate Deals that Make a Difference: Increasing Women’s Access to Prenatal and Postpartum Care

January 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

This month, we’ll be spotlighting the impact achieved by three Nonprofit Partners as a result of receiving funding through Investing In Communities. Last week, we highlighted the amazing work of Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium. Today, we’ll be learning about another fascinating nonprofit: Centro San Bonifacio. And stay tuned as we share more inspiring tales of real estate deals that make a difference!

Spotlight: Centro San Bonifacio

Real Estate Deals That Make a Difference: Immigrant Nurse Receives Scholarship to Continue English Studies

January 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

This week, we’ll be spotlighting the impact achieved by three Nonprofit Partners as a result of receiving funding through Investing In Communities. And first up, let’s hear it for Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium! Stay tuned on Wednesday, January 11, and Friday, January 13, to read more inspiring tales of real estate deals making a difference.

Spotlight: Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium

Virginia Jaime would have to drop her class. She had registered for a TOEFL course at Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium, but times had gotten tough for her and her family. As a licensed nurse in Mexico, Virginia had helped her family live a comfortable life. However, she needed to improve her English to become licensed in the US. Without this class, she couldn’t learn English and couldn’t support her family. Even the $200 price tag was too much. She was stuck. 

Real Estate Deals That Make A Difference: PAWS Chicago

December 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Associated Publications and IIC Present $4,800 in Free, Unrestricted Funding to PAWS Chicago

This November, Investing In Communities distributed $4,796 to our Nonprofit Partner, PAWS Chicago. What made this philanthropy possible?

Associated Publications Inc. (API) made its real estate deal make a difference through IIC by working with a socially responsible real estate professional. With its lease nearing expiration, Associated Publications chose to be represented by Michael Pink of MAP Real Estate, Inc. As an IIC Real Estate Member, Michael can use IIC to pledge at least 10% of his compensation to the nonprofit/s his client selects. For this transaction, Michael used IIC to dedicate 15% of his compensation to API’s preferred nonprofit. In fact, Michael pledges at least 10% of every commission to the nonprofit of his client’s choice. Michael is doing business, doing good, “and getting a lot of business doing it!” he says enthusiastically.

Associated Publications Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Krueger-Spurlock embraced this opportunity to support a meaningful cause at no cost to the company. She selected PAWS Chicago to receive the IIC funds from this transaction. PAWS Chicago is the city’s largest no-kill humane organization, focused on ending the killing of homeless pets. 

Where Real Estate Deals Make A Difference: The New IIC Online!

September 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Change can be a good thing. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s scary. But it’s almost always exciting. Some big changes are afoot here at Investing In Communities. The IIC team worked all summer to redesign and re-imagine the IIC website, and it’s finally ready! We’re excited to unveil the new IIC Online!

Rethink Realestate Rethink PhilanthropyWe’ve reworked the site from top to bottom to improve user experience and deliver a more effective tool for consumers, real estate professionals, and nonprofits. We’ll be rolling out two rounds of changes this fall. Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect!

IIC a Chicago Innovation Awards Nominee

September 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Investing In Communities is officially a Chicago Innovation Awards Nominee! We’re proud to be recognized along with other companies and organizations that are pushing the envelope in the windy city.

What makes IIC so innovative? Several things: First, it creates a virtuous cycle that makes philanthropy profitable and sustainable. And Second, it turns giving into an integral part commerce – rather than simply an afterthought. How do we achieve this? Well, as any business person knows, you’ve gotta spend money to make money. Now imagine if you could replace the word spend with give, and achieve the same business growth goals through a philanthropic model. That’s Investing In Communities.

Here’s how it works

Corporate America, Meet Social Enterprise.

June 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Read the article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review

As I described yesterday, much attention is now focused on using social enterprise as a development tool in emerging economies. Yet entrepreneurial solutions to social problems shouldn’t be overlooked at home. The United States may be further along the development curve, but social enterprise models can be equally effective at driving progress here in the US.

For example, Investing In Communities (IIC) aligns the interests of nonprofits, realtors, and real estate clients to create a philanthropic resource and an effective business development tool.  Creating shared value (social and financial return) is what we do. Now, large corporations are dipping their toes in the water and exploring ways to unite corporate citizenship with bottom-line goals. So naturally, we’re interested.

Recently, Panera Bread has distinguished itself from its peers by going a step further and using its brand, supply chain, and expertise to launch a line of philanthropic cafés. The effort  could practically be described as a social enterprise franchise within Panera.

Known as Panera Cares Cafés, these locations are largely indistinguishable from standard Panera Bread cafés, except for one detail – in place of cash registers, patrons at a Panera Care’s Café will find a donation box. Customers pay on an honor system. Those who can afford to pay the full price or a little extra do, those who are strapped give what they can, and those who have nothing to give are, “free to enjoy their meal with dignity” says Panera co-founder Ron Schaich.

Social Enterprise and Big Business – A New Approach to Corporate Responsibility?

June 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Typically social enterprise evokes images of small start-ups lead by scrappy, passionate young entrepreneurs. Big Business doesn’t exactly spring to mind.

But Fortune 500 companies and large national chains are increasingly discovering the potential that social enterprise holds to advance corporate citizenship goals in a sustainable, efficient, and potentially more effective manner. Certainly, the captains of industry are not abandoning their focus on profit margins and market share to transform themselves into multinational B corporations. But they are exploring new approaches to giving back, and are increasingly pursuing opportunities to create “shared value” through new products, services, and partnerships. And these activities are starting to look a lot like social enterprise – albeit lodged within a traditional corporate structure.