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Books and Guides

This report, Private Capital, Public Good: How Smart Federal Policy Can Galvanize Impact Investing – and Why It’s Urgent (June 2014), by the US National Advisory Board on Impact Investing (NAB) provides a framework for federal policy action in support of impact investing. Simply put, impact investing generates measurable, beneficial social or environmental impacts alongside financial returns. The proposals in this report—some near-term and concrete, others longer-term and more ambitious—have the power to unlock dramatic economic activity and immense positive impact. Ultimately, they may serve as a catalyst to help change the way investors think about long-term risks and returns.

Understanding the difference between outputs and outcomes is important. Outputs relate to “what we do.” Outcomes refer to “what difference is there.”

This is an except from Measuring and Improving Social Impacts: A Guide for nonprofits, companies, and impact investors by Marc J. Epstein and Kristi Yuthas. All organisations have social impacts: some are positive and some negative. Measuring and Improving Social Impacts is about how you can learn to make decisions that will improve the positive social impact of companies, foundations, nonprofits, and impact investors.

This book addresses the five most fundamental questions faced by companies, and nonprofits, and investors seeking to maximise their social impact:

- What Will You Invest?
- What Problem Will You Address?
- What Steps Will You Take?
- How Will You Measure Success?
- How Can You Increase Impact?

Making Sense of Data and Information in the Social Sector, from Markets for Good, is a collection of selected readings from the previous year with ideas about how to upgrade the system for sharing knowledge in the social sector. The b-Book provides a range of perspectives on the most critical data-related challenges facing the social sector, and how these challenges can be addressed. Posts were chosen for their high readership, topic diversity, and thought leadership. The authors debate new and recurring hurdles in the social sector, like capacity and capital constraints; how qualitative data, including stories and beneficiary insights, can be incorporated into data-driven decision processes; and big-, medium-, and small-data management.

In Working Hard—and Working Well, Dr. David E.K. Hunter shares the secret formula behind the intensive, tough-love workshops that have sparked transformation for many of the country’s top nonprofit organizations. The book is highly relevant for:

- Nonprofit leaders who know that guesswork is not enough when lives are on the line
- Board members and advisors who are brave enough to ensure that their organizations do what they say they do
- Consultants who want to help nonprofits develop performance cultures and systems
- Funders who demand performance from their grantees–and are willing to invest in it!

Evaluation has the ability to provide a wealth of information for grantmakers, as well as the organizations and communities they serve, to learn from. When done well, evaluation increases the capacity and improves performance of grantees. GEO provides funders with best practices to incorporate evaluation into their grantmaking through “four essentials:” Lead, Plan, Organize and Share.

This is the first in a series of issue briefs from the Center for American Progress that looks at Social Impact Bonds (SIB) and their value to government agencies. Subsequent pieces will focus on getting the SIB agreement right; models for SIBs and their long-term potential; defining and measuring outcomes for SIBs; and appropriate roles for government agencies in the SIB process.

This is a guide to the Continuum of Evidence of Effectiveness from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a continuum that defines the standards of Best Available Research Evidence in the field of violence prevention and provides information for decision makers in this field on these standards.

IRIS is an initiative of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), a nonprofit organisation dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing. This three-page background document gives an overview of what IRIS is, why IRIS was created, and how IRIS benefits investors, fund managers, and companies.

Leap of Reason inspires leaders in the social and public sectors to take bold action to create more meaningful, measurable good for those they serve. The book is the product of decades of management insights from philanthropist Mario Morino, McKinsey & Company, and more than a dozen experts and practitioners.

This brief document by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines the role and value of impact assessment (IA), including all disciplines, and explains how IA relates to decision-making. It is written for technical people unfamiliar with IA, for decision makers on the fringes of IA, and for people new to this field.

Mission, Inc.: The practitioner’s guide to social enterprise, by Kevin Lynch and Julius Walls Jr, is a practical book that focuses on the day-to-day challenges and opportunities faced by social enterprise practitioners, to help create highly successful businesses.

This paper from SVT Group is a catalog of methods for entrepreneurs and investors to define, measure and communicate social impact and return in privately-held companies.

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This report convened by Rockefeller Foundation examines the different types of approaches to impact measurement, and how each is applicable to the various perspectives from which impact investors approach investment. The report explores answers to several questions, such as:
• How can investors know whether they are in fact helping or hindering progress toward the goal of an environmentally sustainable, healthy, dignified economy?
• How does a portfolio company’s pursuit of this goal affect risk and financial returns?
• If there is an added cost associated with pursuing this goal, what approach can be used to assess whether it is “worth it”?

This report from the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector convened by Independent Sector outlines 33 practices designed to support board members and staff leaders as they work to improve their operations. We encourage staff and volunteers to examine the Principles carefully and determine how they should be applied to their organization.

This book from Barry Schwartz addresses a great paradox of modern life: Why is it that societies where individuals are offered more freedom and choice than ever before have higher rates of depression than ever before? Schwartz argues that the abundance of choice in western society today is making us unhappy.

This is the first catalog of methods for the Double Bottom Line Project that for-profit and nonprofit social ventures and enterprises can use to assess the social impact of their activities. It analyses feasibility and credibility of 9 methods and provides examples of them in use:

- Theories of Change
- Balanced Scorecard
- Acumen Fund Scorecard
- Social Return Assessment
- AtKisson Compass Assessment
- Ongoing Assessment of Social Impact
- Social Return on Investment
- Benefit-Cost Analysis
- Poverty and Social Impact Analysis

This book, by William R. Shadish, Donald T. Campbell, and Thomas D. Cook, is a comprehensive text on experimental research. The four main topics are theoretical matters, experimentation, causation and validity.

Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener and Norbert Schwarz have edited this collection of scientific research to answer the question of well-being, one of the most enduring and elusive subjects of human inquiry. The book is organised in five parts: How can we know who is happy?; Feeling Good or Bad: Pleasures and pains, moods and emotions; Personality and Individual Differences; The Social Context; and Biological Perspectives.

Case Studies

To provide a model of IRIS adoption by impact investors, the KL Felicitas (KLF) Foundation and the Global Impact Investing Network jointly released this case study which explains KLF’s motivation for IRIS adoption and details the Foundation’s application of IRIS across its active investment portfolio.

Event Reports

On March 26, 2003, The Goldman Sachs Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation hosted over fifty funders at Goldman Sachs offices in New York to discuss the issues surrounding assessing social impact and social return on investment (“SROI”). We were pleased with the high level of interest in this topic and the insights articulated during the day’s discussions. Our focus was on two thematic fields: education/youth development and community development/employment.
The purpose of the meeting was twofold:
- To convene a cross-section of charitable and double bottom line funders to discuss and learn from various approaches to assessing social impact and social return on investment in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors
- To begin a dialogue on developing a common set of expectations for metrics or standards that could be used in the education/youth development and community development/employment sectors to assess the social impact of philanthropic and other social purpose investments.

This report synthesises the learning from the first convening facilitated by the Social Research Unit at Dartington and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2011 on scaling what works in improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality in the developing world.

These slides summarise emerging lessons from several discussions on how to scale impact convened by the Social Research Unit at Dartington with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are the product of the brilliance of many experts whose discussions are synthesised in two publications entitles Achieving Lasting Impact at Scale Part 1 and 2.

This report synthesises the learning from the first convening facilitated by the Social Research Unit at Dartington and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2011 on scaling what works in improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality in the developing world.

External Databases and Resources

The Collective Impact Forum is an initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. It is a place to find tools and training around collective impact, as well as an expanding network of like-minded individuals.

Charting Impact is a common framework from Independent Sector that allows staff, boards, stakeholders, donors, volunteers, and others to work together, learn from each other and serve the community better. It complements planning, evaluation, and assessment that organizations already undertake, and can be used by nonprofits and foundations of all sizes and missions.

Money for Good from Hope Consulting has resources on impact investing and charitable giving.

The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox, by Robert M. Penna, Ph.D, provides a selection of resources on outcomes.

Since 1989, ORS Impact have been delivering deep value into their clients’ organisations, working together to pursue ‘the change they seek,’ and to improve their communities’ health, wellbeing, and prospects to flourish. They share these resources, with a view to building capacity in organizations doing good work around the world. Resources are on topics inclusing Theory of Change, Evaluation Practice, Outcomes and Advocacy and Policy.

The Research Initiative on Social Entrepreneurship (RISE) is a research project whose mission is to study and disseminate knowledge about the markets, metrics and management of for-profit and nonprofit social enterprise and social venturing. RISE was a program at Columbia Business School from 2001 to 2010. RISE is currently run as a personal project of Cathy Clark, Adjunct Assistant Professor of CASE at Duke.

Founded in 2006, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy has emerged as a unique and trusted authority for donors seeking to maximise the social impact of their funds.

Resources include:

- What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Impact?
- Beyond Compliance: Measuring to Learn, Improve, and Create Positive Change
- Five Myths and a Question About Impact
- Global Children’s Health: A Toolkit for Donors

The resource also contains many philanthropic investment guides and reports.

IMPACT Magazine is a free, student-run publication at the University of Pennsylvania focused on social impact. Released in print and online, each edition of IMPACT Magazine has a different social impact theme, such as Education, with the purpose of informing, engaging, and inspiring readers about the ongoing issues and action affecting youths, particularly in Philadelphia.

Guides to Giving Well is a resource centre from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors that provides guidance, case studies and tools for thoughtful, effective philanthropy.

The resources centre from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) provides information on impact investing. The site includes news, research, events, impact investing profiles, GIIN publications, investor spotlight, useful links and career centre.

The Theory of Change library is an on-going project of the Theory of Change Community, with the long-term goal of being a comprehensive resource for all things TOC – background, how-to, books and articles, case studies and examples, videos, and presentations.

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The TRASI online community space exists to foster conversations about social impact assessment via forum or blog sections. The Community portal also includes relevant reports, posts, events, tweets and videos. It is a service of the Foundation Center.

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In 1996, the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV), at the Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado Boulder, designed and launched a national youth prevention initiative to identify and replicate violence, delinquency and drug prevention programs that have been demonstrated as effective. The Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development project identifies prevention and intervention programs that meet a strict scientific standard of program effectiveness.

Impact Reports

The Accountability Lab is an independent, non-profit organisation that acts as a catalyst to make power-holders responsible in the developing world. The Lab acts as a sounding board, listening to, analysing and reflecting upon accountability concerns; as an independent interface, engaging relevant actors across contexts and issues; and as an operational hub, catalysing innovative, collaborative and sustainable accountability practices and communities. Through this approach, the Lab bolsters efforts to address the causes rather than the symptoms of poverty, exclusion and insecurity.

Calvert Foundation’s 2013 Social Impact Report explores the impact that investors, funders, supporters, portfolio partners, and advisors have empowered them to create in 2012. Calvert Foundation works at the nexus of communities and capital, meaning their impact is both the outcomes of our lending - affordable housing units built, jobs created, etc. - and the ways that they enable people to invest in the causes that inspire them.

Opinion and Comment

John Gargani’s blog about program design and evaluation.

Alison Gold from Living Cities explains seven things that they have learned about building cross-sector partnerships in the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s magazine, Community Investments Vol 26, Issue 1.

If we are to talk about measuring social returns, a good starting place is the outcomes that lead to them. This is the point where can measure both the organization itself (sustainability of the business and the model) as well as the cumulative effects of specific outcomes on the lives of the people we wish to help. Causality is implied in a theory of change: “If we achieve A, B, C outcomes, then we expect X, Y, Z to happen.” 100% definitiveness eludes any organization. However, defining a theory of change (even if by another name) and supporting outcomes is necessary before any discussion of returns (including impact, especially.) Sarah Stachowiak, CEO of ORS Impact, walks through the basics.

Elizabeth Woodson from Stanford University talks about the opportunities for students to foster social impact.

This report by Paul Brest and Kelly Born for The Conference Board Initiative on Corporate Philanthropy, was originally published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In corporate philanthropy, the focus is shifting from counting inputs to measuring social impact. Yet there is considerable confusion about the meaning of social impact. And the concept is even more complex in the emerging practice of impact investing. This report, which inaugurates The Conference Board Giving Thoughts series, sheds light on the concepts of enterprise, investment, nonmonetary impact, and the key requirement of “additionality.” By carefully examining the parameters and assumptions underlying the “impact” in impact investments, this edition of the series lays the foundation for a more focused discussion of assessing philanthropic and impact investing outcomes.

Tris Lumley Head of Development at NPC and trustee of SIAA talks about embedding impact measurement in practice.

This blog by Alnoor Ebrahim, an associate professor in the Social Enterprise Initiative at the Harvard Business School, discusses when it makes sense to measure impacts and when it might be best to stick with outputs.

Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation, discusses the lack of consensus on what social value is and how to assess it despite the evident enthusiasm from funders, nonprofit executives and policymakers. he argues that when people approach social value as subjective, malleable, and variable, they create better metrics to capture it.

AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and is dedicated to highlighting Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources, and Lessons Learned for evaluators.


The Collective Impact Forum is an initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. It is a place to find tools and training around collective impact, as well as an expanding network of like-minded individuals.

The Simple Wheel provides tools for nonprofits to measure their impact, and for donors to better inform their giving.

MEASURING NATIONAL PROGRESS – To truly advance social progress, we must learn to measure it, comprehensively and rigorously. The Social Progress Index from Social Progress Imperative offers a rich framework for measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress, benchmarking success, and catalyzing greater human wellbeing. The 2014 version of the Social Progress Index has improved upon the 2013 ‘beta’ version through generous feedback from many observers.

PerformWell is a collaborative effort initiated by Urban Institute, Child Trends, and Social Solutions in the United States. PerformWell provides measurement tools and practical knowledge that human services professionals can use to manage their programs’ day-to-day performance. Information in PerformWell leverages research-based findings that have been synthesized and simplified by experts in the field. By providing information and tools to measure program quality and outcomes, PerformWell helps human services practitioners deliver more effective social programs.

Training and Courses

The Collective Impact Forum is an initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. It is a place to find tools and training around collective impact, as well as an expanding network of like-minded individuals.

The Fund Raising School, an international leader in fundraising training and professional development, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, a nationally ranked leader in nonprofit management education, offer the Program Evaluation for Mission Impact course at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). It is one of four required courses for the new Certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership. This course focuses on the techniques and application of evaluation methods to assess the effectiveness of nonprofit programs.

Cornell University offers various courses that focus or touch on social entrepreneurship or innovation. The list includes Social entrepreneurs, innovators and problem solvers, Social Justice and the City: Preparation for Urban Fieldwork, Making a Difference: By Design and Leadership in Nonprofit Environments

Created for professionals in nonprofit organisations, this graduate-level certificate from Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota offers specific knowledge and skills related to human resource development, organisational evaluation, finance, conflict resolution, and decision-making. The Nonprofit Management Certificate curriculum is designed for individuals who do not have formal training in the business aspects of managing a nonprofit organisation.

The University of Delaware offers a Nonprofit Management Certificate Course. Started in 1990, this 16-week course teaches participants how to handle the key management challenges facing nonprofit organisations: Strategic planning, technology, financial management, human resources, fostering leadership, lobbying and advocacy, designing and evaluating programmes, marketing and fundraising. To date, over 370 people have successfully completed the Nonprofit Management Certificate Course. This course runs in the spring (February-May) and meets each Thursday (8:30 am-4:30 pm).

This is a presentation that was was delivered by Heléne Clark, ActKnowledge and Andrea A. Anderson, Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change at the American Evaluation Association in November 2004. The presentation explains Theory of Change (TOC) and the difference between TOC and Logic Models.


Professor Dean Karlan, founder of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), shares his expertise on impact assessment and his ideas on prediction games for personal behavior modification, both as a tool to set realistic expectations and as a means to implement personal goals at Games for Change 2014 festival.

This webinar, from Charity Navigator, introduces their rating dimension. Called Results Reporting, the new metrics specifically examine how well charities report on their results. In the following recording of the webinar, experts explain why Charity Navigator developed Results Reporting metrics, introduce the new methodology and explain the process for implementation.

This video is from the 2013 Net Impact Conference. Chip Conley, Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels & Head of Global Hospitality of Airbnb, provided the closing keynote speech: Change Starts with an Idea.

This is the first video in a series of 3 short videos that describe FSG’s concept of collective impact.

Working Papers and Research

Philanthropic institutions have been instrumental in helping to launch the Social Impact Bond (SIB) market both in the US and abroad. To explore this work, Social Finance US has released a White Paper which draws on existing research and Social Finance’s on-the-ground experience, as well as interviews with numerous foundation staff and thought leaders. They assessed the role that philanthropy has played and will continue to play in developing the SIB market in the US.

Do you communicate data and information to stakeholders? These special issues of New Directions for Evaluation edited by Tarek Azzam and Stephanie Evergreen address data visualisation and evaluation. Part 1 introduces recent developments in the quantitative and qualitative data visualisation field and provide a historical perspective on data visualisation, its potential role in evaluation practice, and future directions.

It discusses Quantitative visualization methods such as tree maps, Sparklines, Web-based interactive visualisation, Different types of qualitative data visualisations, and a toolography describing additional data visualisation tools
and software, along with their major strengths and limitations.

Part 2 delivers concrete suggestions for optimally using data visualisation in evaluation, as well as suggestions for best practices in data visualisation design. It focuses on specific quantitative and qualitative data visualisation approaches that include data dashboards, graphic recording, and geographic information systems (GIS).

Readers will get a step-by-step process for designing an effective data dashboard system for programs and organizations, and various suggestions to improve their utility. The next section illustrates the role that graphic recording can play in helping programs and evaluators understand and communicate the mission and impact that an intervention is having in a democratic and culturally competent way. The GIS section provides specific examples of how mapped data can be used to understand program implementation and effectiveness, and the influence that the environment has on these outcomes.

The Impact Investor Project was established in 2012 as a two-year research partnership between InSight at Pacific Community Ventures, CASE at Duke University, and ImpactAssets. The goal was simple: supplant the guesswork and conjecture in impact investing with solid evidence of high performance and, in the process, expose the concrete practices of outstanding funds for use as the foundation for a more sophisticated and successful market.

Impact Investing 2.0 profiles twelve funds who work in vastly different sectors, from microfinance in India to sustainable property in the UK, and have accordingly pursued very different investment strategies and approaches to social impact.Their success across such a broad set of parameters offers many lessons for the industry and beyond.

E.T. Jackson and Associates Ltd prepared Accelerating Impact: Achievements, Challenges and What’s Next in Building the Impact Investing Industry for The Rockefeller Foundation in 2012. It includes sections on Impact Investing: What It Is and Why It Matters, Achievements and Challenges: What’s Happened So Far, and What Hasn’t, Opportunities and Directions: What’s Next?

This comprehensive report on Social Impact Bonds (SIB) examines how SIBs might be applied in two programme areas in the US: homelessness and criminal justice.

This working paper is by Alnoor Ebrahim and V. Kasturi Rangan, Social Enterprise Initiative, Harvard Business School.

Leaders of organisations in the social sector are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. We review the debates around performance and impact, drawing on three literatures: strategic philanthropy, nonprofit management, and international development. We then develop a contingency framework for measuring results, suggesting that some organisations should measure long-term impacts, while others should focus on shorter-term outputs and outcomes. In closing, we discuss the implications of our analysis for future research on performance management.

This article, from the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal is by Ken Berger, Robert M. Penna and Steven H. Goldberg, addresses the important questions of how to define the value of all the work we are doing, and how to measure that value.

A growing group of investors around the world is seeking to make investments that generate social and environmental value as well as financial return. This emerging industry of impact investing has the potential to become a potent force for addressing global challenges. But how might it succeed or fail? Will it take the next five to 10 years? 25 years? Or will it not happen at all?

This report by Jessica Freireich and Katherine Fulton for Monitor Institute examines impact investing and how leaders could accelerate the industry’s evolution and increase its ultimate impact in the world. It explores how impact investing has emerged and how it might evolve, including profiles of a wide range of impact investors. The report also provides a blueprint of initiatives to catalyze the industry.

The strategy was completed in January 2009 with lead funding and support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Funding was also provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase Foundation.