Grant metrics: How to measure your community investment performance 

In today's video, we discuss how to measure the effectiveness and outcomes of you community investment grants including what metrics to look for and how to report long term benefits. We also explore tools and techniques and cost and resources.

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What we discussed:

Karl Yeh:  

So in today's episode, I'm joined by Kerry Lawrence, who's Benevity's internal client consultant focused on social impact and corporate [00:00:30] community investment.

So today we're talking about granting metrics and let's take it right down to the beginning.

What are the key metrics that we are looking for when it comes to your granting programs?

What are the key granting metrics to look for?

Kerry Lawrence:           

This old chestnut, that's what I like to say all the time.

We talk about metrics all the time and just from a higher level, it's should we have them? Should we not have them? How do we do this?

Let's start from ground zero. [00:01:00] Grant metrics.

I'm just going to use the basic, what most people how they refer to them and how they talk about them.

There's various different ways, but let's just talk basics.


So there are grants metrics that you can control, which we call your inputs. So that means what type of contributions are you making.

Cash, time, in kind, and management costs. I'm going to let that pause and sink in for everyone. Management costs.

Most people do not calculate the management costs.

That's part of the input [00:01:30] for what you're doing, as a whole. Secondly, no what is driving your program.

Are they transactional grants, meaning charitable gifts.

Is it more strategic, longer term relationships with your charity partners?

Are they commercial initiatives? Is it just for your business, business development, sponsorship, et cetera, and where.

These are the inputs on what you know you can easily control and you can gather and track. Those are the easy ones.


Then we have the next bucket, which are a bit harder to control. [00:02:00] Some people are pretty good at this, but this is a little bit harder.

And these are your outputs.

So, what happens in the community because of what you are donating and or doing?

So it'd be more of a quantifiable.

How many people were reached?

It could be type of beneficiary, for example. Or how many charities were supported.

This stuff is, again, easier to do, an overall summary of how many people were reached, where, within each focus area.

And then what a lot [00:02:30] of people forget about and they try to, but they don't do a great job of is what happened in your business because of the funds that you donated.

So could be media coverage. What was the media coverage because of it? Was there any employee involvement or engagement?

How many customers were reached? And then I talked about this earlier in another podcast, with what are you able to leverage?

So point of sale, if you're in retail, how many customers also donated? What did they do,?how many employees donated? [00:03:00]

So those are your outputs.

And that is something that more, I would say, more quantifiable numbers. And then you have the part that everybody seems to struggle on for various reasons.

And we'll dive into that.

But number one is your outcomes and impact:

  • What was the depth of impact? Was there connection, an improvement in connection?
  • Was there a transformation because of it?
  • Or what the type of impact?
  • Was there a change in behavior or skillset or an improvement in quality [00:03:30] life?

So an example would be, if you're focused on education and then you dive into literacy, specifically for children, you could say this number of children were affected or reached, this many volunteers read to children, but we improved their skills.

They actually could read their name and read and write their name. Maybe we helped improve their quality of life.

So I want to say for both of those cases above, I [00:04:00] like to use the word likelihood. So what is the proof of likelihood to improve, change, or transform?

So that is where people try or clients try specifically with metrics for that type and depth of impact.

They try and think, "Okay, what's the number for how many, how change skillset?" Well, that's very difficult. I would think of it more as what is the likelihood based on what we're doing and the charity is doing, because of what they're doing, [00:04:30] this is the likelihood they will improve.

Or that they will be able to fill and write their name.

So as a little side note, I like to say, "The charity will know this." That's why they're so focused on the issue and their method of solving the problem.

So your relationship here will matter, and Karl will talk about this in a second, but for this last part of this metric, the hardest is this is where your relationship will matter more than anything else.

There's a lot of talk, right now, about trust based philanthropy, [00:05:00] which essentially means, you know your business, you know the impact you're going to make in the communities, you know your method for solving the problem.

We trust if we give you this money, that you are going to be able to make the right decision on how to use it. Long story short.

So if you're looking at that as a metric, that is something that you still can track and measure, but that would be another type of metric you could track, as well as impact on your business long term. [00:05:30] Like depth of impact on your operational side of your business, or perhaps you created new business because of it.

Maybe new brand awareness or improvement in stakeholder relations. Huge. And lastly, impact on your employees.

So there's a lot there in terms of the type of metrics that you can look at and track for your grants and your grant program.

Karl Yeh:                      

Just looking at this list, there must be challenges to either gathering this [00:06:00] information or reporting on this information.

What are some of the ones that you've encountered the most?

Challenges to grant metrics

Kerry Lawrence:           

Challenge #1: Capturing outputs and outcomes without burning out charities

I can tell you, and I bet you everyone's screaming the same thing right now, because these are the two most common challenges, is understanding how to best capture the outputs and outcomes without burning out charities.

Challenge #2: Collecting and analyzing the data

That's number one. And number two, is collecting and analyzing the data.

And I just want to say on that level, Karl, that [00:06:30] both of those are huge.

And why? Not many are doing a really, really great job of it because they're trying to capture everything.

They're not really sure what tools they should use or how to analyze that.

And I have to say that if you're looking at collecting and analyzing data, if you have a community investment team of two or one, or maybe even five, that's not your jam, most likely.

Did you go to school for that and become a data analyst? [00:07:00] No, probably not. Maybe you did, which is amazing, which is a great position to be in.

But generally you didn't. It's a very difficult job and a skillset.

And so when you are asking the questions and trying to figure out what metrics you're gathering, that's why I always say, you must know and be realistic with what resources you have. And we'll talk about those resources in a bit a minute.

But yeah, how to best capture without burning out charities.

Again, know your resources and know how to work with charities, specifically, [00:07:30] who do have the resources to help you.

Karl Yeh:                       How would you go about measuring then the success of a grant?

How to measure the success of a grant

Kerry Lawrence:           

If you know which metrics you're going to track. And forget the inputs because I feel like that's the obvious.

If you're talking about the outputs and the outcomes, that's one thing to know whether they aligned with what you've chosen.

But at a higher level, and bottom line, it'll always say, "Did this grant help you solve the problem or problems you want to solve in the community? [00:08:00] Did it help you?"

And if it did, that's a very easy, yes.

Will it resonate with your invested stakeholders?

Which is what we talked and you just talked about this before, will it resonate with them?

Will they be like, "Huh? Why'd you do that? I don't understand why you did that. How will this benefit us? Or how will this benefit the community and our partners?" It's got to be one or both.

And does this grant help leverage improve the value of your program? I always say this. [00:08:30] And maybe it's not one grant because I know, I'm going to make this up for everybody, but I'm making this number up.

Did this grant help you solve the problem or problems you want to solve in the community?

But I would say 20% of grants are charitable gifts and hallway conversations.

We do this every year.

We're just going to do it or this person's my friend. Can you just fund them? Or this person can't fill in an online application form so they call. Can you just give us some money?

So 20%, it should be, but it's probably more than that. And then 80% would be great if it was more strategic in nature.

And if it aligned with whether you're [00:09:00] solving the problem that you say you want to solve. So that is one.

Does it help you leverage improve? Does it increase the value of your business with your customers and investors?

Karl Yeh:                      

You mentioned, if this had impact the community, but how about those grants or things that may have long term impacts that you may not see in a couple weeks, a couple months, or even a couple years?

How do you report back on that?

How to report on long term benefits of grants

Kerry Lawrence:           

Oh, you're the best for [00:09:30] asking that. You're the best. I love... We're totally on the same page.

I actually prefer that, those kind. That's like multiple, multiyear granting. Everyone has different names for it.

We'll just call it multiyear granting where you decide that you've got a partner, you're both really passionate about solving the same problem, and you decide to pledge them.

That's another word that I've heard.

For five years, for example. You're going to give them a $100,000 over the course of five years. And [00:10:00] what I've heard with clients is the way that they track the success of that is through the phone.

They have a very close relationship and they'll find out, over the course of the years, how that went. Everyone's probably like, "No, it needs to be a tool." Yeah, it does, technically, and we have the tools.

We have the resources to be able to track it in a more intelligent way in terms of data.

But I still think for those longer [00:10:30] term relationships, a lot of that is on your capability to develop a successful relationship with this charity.

And what does that relationship look like? And how do you track that? And that could be not just with a grants management system, but it could also be with a CRM, a customer relationship management tool. It has to be through something.

But I think as a relationship for those longer ones, you can have individual surveys that go out post [00:11:00] each year of funding to prove.

But the long term, you're going to know through your relationship. Sometimes it's like this on the phone, what the impact has been.

Using a CRM to understand the success of relationship with the charity

Karl Yeh:                      

And when you talk about CRM, are you talking about the exact same CRMs that I would be thinking of like a Salesforce or a HubSpot?

Kerry Lawrence:           

HubSpot. Monday.

Some of them are free. You even can have those.

But I find those relationship management [00:11:30] tools, everybody here... I just feel very passionately personally about this and feel free to argue with me if you think I'm wrong, but right now, I feel like a lot of technology is around successfully managing a grant and being able to report on what happened.

But, when you're trying to manage a relationship, that is a little bit different.

And I feel like as society and in this industry and where we're [00:12:00] at right now, I think there has to be something else that we're looking at is how we can track those relationships and the success of our relationships. It's not necessarily per grant. It's easy.

There're tools. And we'll talk about those tools. But when it talks to relationship, I think that you need to start looking at something like a CRM or something along those lines where you can really dive into how do we strengthen this relationship and learn how to help each other more.

Karl Yeh:                      

When I talked about the over time or [00:12:30] multiyear granting and tracking that, you're obviously looking at the different KPIs that come up every year or every quarter every month.

Kerry Lawrence:           

Yeah. Cost of doing business.     

Is your objective the same or is it a little bit different? What are you going to be doing with the funds?

Are you still reaching the same beneficiaries? Is it still... All of those types of core eligibility. You want to make sure.

It's the cost of doing business.

You want to make sure that they meet those requirements. But, [00:13:00] we also understand if we look at the trust based philanthropy, that things pivot and change a little bit.

So you have to trust, to a certain extent, and I think some things will be easy to ask in a survey or a follow-up to say what happened?

Did the funds that we sent you contribute to what you said it was going to contribute to? And was the impact what you thought it was going to be?

And sometimes it's going to be, like you say, much more general. It's not specific.

It's not transactional.

It's not, "Oh, we created [00:13:30] because of this one $10,000 grant. We increase the confidence and of these children." How do you know from $10,000? That is over the course of 10 years, even.

Karl Yeh:                      

So when we talked about CRM, what are the other tools and techniques would you use in terms of measuring grants?

Tools and techniques to measure grant success

Kerry Lawrence:           

So there's a number of different things that I've heard and we talk about. So there's measurement frameworks. [00:14:00] There're tons of them out there.

There're tons of measurement frameworks to look at, to try and track and measure the success of your program.

So some clients I've worked with use the theory of change model and we can link to some ideas in the description for that.

There's the London Benchmarking Group. So those of you who work with them or know them very well, they're very familiar with inputs, outputs, and outcomes.

There's ESG, environmental, social, and governance measurement framework.

So in this case, all the folks here will be [00:14:30] interested in the social component.

Obviously, maybe even environmental and governance fall into it, but mostly social. There's lots of other ones, but that's just a great example.

Then you have whatever your system capabilities are.

So whatever you're using to manage your grants, what are the capabilities of that system? So for example, for us, I just know you have survey capability.

So once a recipient has received the funds, they will receive [00:15:00] a survey to say, what happened with that?

Did what you expect happen? You have application forms.

So you can front load your application forms to put in, what do you expect to happen?

You have scorecards or rubrics, as a lot of people call that too, which are basically bit proving business impact. So it would be, was there or will there be media coverage?

It will basically align with, does align with our values, with our mission, with our business objectives?

A [00:15:30] lot of clients are using that. And then lastly, a great tool is your relationship with the charities.

And this is where I was talking about perhaps the CRM or something like that. But this is the biggest thing to help you measure that success.

And I still talk with so many clients and program administrators who literally just do lunch with them.

They'll do lunch.

They go and see them.

They talk on the phone with them all the time. And everything is written down in their journal or their diary or whatever they're writing them down in.

But, that is still a major [00:16:00] form of measuring the grant success.

Karl Yeh:                      

The first thing I think of when we talk about all the tools that may be required, is there an expectation in terms of cost and resourcing to maybe learn these tools and use them?

Or is this something that's pretty straightforward?

Cost and resourcing for grant metric tools

Kerry Lawrence:           

I think so. I think the biggest challenge these days, that I know of, our resources are really tight.

But, think broadly in terms of what resources could be. [00:16:30] So they could be people.

So it could just be your relationships and focus on how you nurture and track those relationships, which could be your job anyway.

Maybe that's your main job and what you love doing. It could be resources are your time, for primary and secondary research.

So what we talked about before, with fact gathering and trying to figure that out, that is a resource.

So how much time do you have? Who else is in your company?

So you've got employees. Are you able to, maybe there's something there with their relationships with causes? I'm not sure.

This is a whole [00:17:00] other conversation, but that's absolutely a resource.

So people are management costs, resources, and then technology.

So whatever your grant management platform is capable of doing, sometimes there's a base and then you have extras and terms of survey functionality, or scorecard functionality, all that kind of thing.

And then maybe your CRM. I find that with most clients, if they will always have some form of brands management platform, and if they don't, [00:17:30] they may use Excel. I'm not judging. You might even use Excel or you might be using...

There's other competitors out there, obviously, but they all have some way of tracking that.

But I would be looking at those.

And for your budgeting, to me, I'd be thinking more about what you have as a person and how you can nurture those relationships because I find that is the core component that could nail so many things.

Understanding their needs, [00:18:00] how to serve them better rather than just relying on technology, which sometimes is not amazing for being able to disseminate information.

So you absolutely need to be good at strengthening relationships yourself and tracking that as along side with the technology to help you manage efficiently and track what happened after efficiently.

Does that answer your question?

Karl Yeh:                      

It does. It does.

And we can definitely be talking about a measurement and metrics for hours upon hours. But, [00:18:30] do you have anything else to add in terms of reporting and metrics in terms of granting?

Kerry Lawrence:           

I think, and this is like one of my favorite words, is you just need to get organized. And keep it simple. I know we talked about a lot.

I do not want everyone to feel totally overwhelmed. But, think about your inputs in terms of make that easy, you can control that, you can set that up to figure that out. And then just pick a few of the outputs and the outcomes. [00:19:00]

Start small, but be laser focused on what problem you're trying to solve to see if you can prove it. You're always going to have stuff outside of it that's not going to align.

You're always going to. That's totally fine.

But if you know a problem you want to focus on, just pick a few of those metrics. And then what aligns and you can easily do with the resources you have.

Question of the Day:

How do you measure your community investment and granting initiatives? What tools and techniques do you use?