Driving High-Impact Through More Strategic Partnerships

03/18/2015 06:29 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015
Erik Khalitov via Getty Images

A sea change is occurring in the philanthropic and social mission space in response to the scarcity of and competition for resources.  Government funding of charity (which some estimate represents 30 percent or more of all funds going to nonprofits), is dropping with no end in sight.  The funding that remains will increasingly be based on an evidence-based approach focused on finding those charitable programs that actually work, are scalable, replicable and sustainable in ways that achieve maximum social impact.

Similarly corporate philanthropy offices are seeking ways to be more strategic in their giving as they are increasingly under the gun to demonstrate the tangible outcomes of their efforts including more evidence that funding and resources are being directed to charities that are accountable, show evidence of their impact, and have potential to scale.

As an organization that sits at the nexus of employer-charity interactions, America's Charities sees how both employers and charities are struggling with this new reality as evidenced by our 2014 Snapshot Report.

On the corporate side, employers are struggling with legacy giving programs that don't necessarily connect to a broader CSR or even employee engagement strategy.  While a handful of well-heeled corporate giving offices have significant resources, most are under-resourced and viewed as "cost centers."

On the nonprofit side, charities are trying to "diversify" their funding and view companies as prospective supporters. But our research shows charities are challenged in building and maintaining meaningful, strategic relationships with corporate partners and their employees.

One thing is clear.  Everything is changing and there will be winners and losers.  And the corporate and charity winners will be those who embrace the new metrics and rising tide of expectations around accountability and impact.  

Charities have seen this coming for quite some time and have been seeking talent and tools to meet these new expectations. But it is a challenge and there is great debate as to what constitutes "impact," how that is measured, and who pays for the added cost.

Progress was made about three years ago when GuideStar, Independent Sector, and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance came together to create Charting Impact, an initiative designed to provide charities with an uncomplicated method for easily articulating their impact value proposition by answering five basic questions:

  1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
  2. What are your strategies for making this happen?
  3. What are your capabilities for doing this?
  4. How will your organization know if you're making progress?
  5. What have and haven't you accomplished so far?

While these questions may seem fundamental, when you consider them closely and seek the answers, what you have is actually a strong indication of a nonprofit organization's commitment to accountability and outcomes. 

Building on Charting Impact, America's Charities has created a service for employers and charities called High Performing Charities.  High Performing Charities is not a rating system, rather it is a series of "indicators" based on existing charity validators that are likely to result in higher performance and accountability by a charity.  America's Charities is working to connect these High Performing Charities with companies and employees interested in engaging and strategically aligning with nonprofits that are demonstrating or have higher potential for greater impact.  Additionally, we work with companies to help their strategic charity partners and grantees gain skills and knowledge to become higher performing.

To find out how we can help you connect to high performing charities contact us at  And please join me at the 14th Annual Charities@Work Summit in New York on March 23-25, 2015 to discuss this and related issues.  Click here to register.

I also invite you to stop by America's Charities' table to answer a quick survey that will be included in our Snapshot 2015 report on workplace giving and employee engagement, to be released this Fall.  Employee engagement has evolved rapidly since America's Charities released Snapshot 2013: Trends and Strategies to Engage Employees in Greater Giving. The Snapshot series explores the evolution of workplace giving and what employers are doing to meet new employee expectations around engagement inside and outside the walls of the workplace.  With Snapshot 2015, we will revisit how quickly employee engagement is transforming, along with how companies are responding to new employee expectations and demonstrating impact and return on investment.