Empowering people with financial knowledge

Removing the guesswork from doing good

Jason Saul wants to separate emotions from social good.

“We’re not going to change the world with casual conjecture and emotional decisions,” says Saul, founder and CEO of Mission Measurement, a Moody’s partner that advises companies, nonprofits and governments on measuring social impact. “We want to help organizations make social impact decisions in a more scientific, quantitative way.”

For Moody’s, partnering with Mission Measurement was a natural extension of our work to enable informed decisions that promote progress. In 2019, we broadened our partnership to move toward greater standardization for measuring social impact.

“Measuring social impact is a challenge for most companies,” says Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, global head of corporate social responsibility at Moody’s Corporation. “This work will allow Moody’s and other organizations to quantify social impact, particularly when it comes to measuring and reporting corporate impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

Spreading the word to create systemic change

Mission Measurement’s Impact Genome Project®  is designed to standardize the way social programs measure and evaluate outcomes. The platform uses hundreds of thousands of data points to quickly generate detailed reports customized by policy area.

As one of the first companies to participate in the Impact Genome Project, Moody’s adopted and applied the platform’s methodology to our own corporate social responsibility initiatives. Using the Impact Genome Scorecard® — a single-page report that includes program overviews, performance summaries and benchmarks — we were able to analyze our grant portfolio based on measurable outcomes. This analysis helped us assess our progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enabled us to make better decisions about our investments in the social space.

“Moody’s is not only an early adopter; it’s an innovator. They want to be part of leading change in the field, as opposed to just solving the problem for themselves.”

JASON SAUL
FOUNDER AND CEO, MISSION MEASUREMENT

To help share what we have learned with corporations across different industries, we engaged The Conference Board, an independent research organization. Key members of Moody’s leadership team, along with Saul, spoke to The Conference Board’s network of member organizations at various panels, conferences and events. In these sessions, panelists discussed how Moody’s approached our grant portfolio in a data-driven way and shared case studies from companies that are measuring impact on employees and beneficiaries.

“Moody’s is not only an early adopter; it’s an innovator,” says Saul. “They want to be part of leading change in the field, as opposed to just solving the problem for themselves.”  

Our partnership with Mission Measurement has enabled Saul to continue to progress the field of social impact with the establishment of the Center for Impact Sciences at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Led by Saul, the new research institute focuses on advancing the science of what works by developing new predictive tools and research methods that help decision-makers apply evidence to practice in real time. Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi is an advisor to the center.  

As we continue to share our experience with corporations and nonprofits, we hope to build the capacity of these organizations to benchmark their corporate social responsibility initiatives and to create a rigorous standard for measuring corporate impact on SDGs.

Making better decisions universal

Creating a standard for measuring corporate social impact is no simple task. It requires the establishment of a universal evidence base, a common language and a shared reporting platform that other companies adopt as well.

Moody’s took a step in this direction by commissioning research conducted by The Conference Board. The resulting report, Toward Standardized Social Outcomes for Companies, analyzed data from 16 companies that participated in a pilot of the Impact Genome Project. All together, these companies contributed data from nearly 650 nonprofit programs, providing a sufficient sample for analysis and insight into the effectiveness of corporate social investments.

The study calculated benchmark metrics such as efficacy rates and cost per outcome and found that most nonprofits supported by the companies in the pilot were effective. Out of a subset of 14 social outcomes across a variety of impact areas, including food security and student achievement, 11 returned efficacy rates of over 80%, and all 14 returned efficacy rates of over 60%, meaning that most participants in the related programs achieved the targeted outcome.

16

Companies that participated in the Impact Genome Project pilot

Nearly 650

Nonprofit programs supported by Impact Genome Project participants

Over 80%

Efficacy rate of supported nonprofits in 11 out of 14 social outcomes

The report also revealed that companies may not be funding the social outcomes they think they are. Many companies choose nonprofit partners based on their perceived alignment with the company’s key focus areas. However, without a common language and standard, they may be delivering outcomes in different social impact areas than originally expected. By uncovering and highlighting this discrepancy, Moody’s hopes the Impact Genome Project can provide trusted insights and standards that help companies make more confident decisions about the outcomes they target in the future.

Building momentum for measurement

As our partnership with Mission Measurement moves forward in 2020 and beyond, we will continue to focus on using the Impact Genome Project as a standard for measuring corporate impact on the SDGs.

We also plan to expand the international application of the platform to global corporations, charities and governments — an area about which Saul is particularly excited.

“The Impact Genome Project democratizes evaluation, allowing all funders to be more evidence-based and outcomes-driven in the way they do their funding,” he says. “Once we crack the code, I think we can put true data behind SDGs and demonstrate the real impact that each company is having.”