Conference exclusive: Measuring the business value of social impact

In "Beyond the Business Case: Measuring the Business Value of Social Impact," Jason Saul of Mission Measurement walked a packed house through his model for measuring the value of corporate citizenship in ways that make sense for a company's business value.

Saul believes that the key to good measurement is a tight focus on the outcomes you want to achieve, not the activities you think will achieve them.

Don't measure how many employee volunteer hours your company has logged over the past year - you need to measure how many employees consider themselves actively engaged with the company, or see themselves aligned with its values.

Don't measure how many customers know about your environmental commitments - measure how much brand loyalty has increased.

Set the outcomes you want to achieve first, then work backwards to identify measurements, then identify strategies that will move those measurements in a positive direction. It's an engaging strategy that allows citizenship professionals to focus on the goals that their colleagues, and bosses, can understand.

Saul's system doesn't make measurement easy - you'll still have to figure out just what kinds of data will help you measure outcomes, how to balance quantitative vs. qualitative data, how to craft a compelling narrative for your strategy, and so on. But if your goal is to tie citizenship to business value, the focus on specified outcomes is a excellent place to start.

So what do you think? Do you find these measurement tips helpful? Can you offer any others?