Or how would we quantify the return of helping members better understand a disease they are afflicted by and take preventative actions? How would we measure helping members with depression connect with others who have been through similar experiences?
Trying to capture these aspects in a financial metric is inelegant and neglects the full picture. Many of these communities yield tremendous psychological benefits to their stakeholders. However, because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not possible to identify a relevant proxy metric we can use.
We might not be able to determine the benefit of preventing a fracking operation in the local area, but we can compare the cost of collecting a signature via the community against other methods (e.g. having someone on the street collecting signatures).
Likewise, we might not be able to measure the complete financial benefit of members being more informed or supported by others afflicted by the same disease, but we can capture and contrast how well they feel they are handling their disease, their self-reported life satisfaction ratings, and their current level of knowledge against other methods the organization is taking to achieve the same outcome.
This can, however, lead to big mistakes. Imagine if a petition collects 500,000 signatures at a cost saving of $1 per signature compared with $2 via other methods. The organization might calculate a return of $500,000 ($1 saved per signature collected). Yet, now imagine the petition doesn’t achieve its goal. This would still be calculated as a $500k saving despite the petition itself being a failure. There is no simple solution to this problem. It does help, however, to be aware of it.
With the full acceptance that calculating the financial value of social benefits may make us feel queasy, we have tried to put together a means of estimating the return of a non-profit community.
Improved lives of individual stakeholders
Improving the ability of stakeholders to handle their environment
|More informed members
Influence change on a broader social level
Eliciting donations from community members
|Peer to peer fundraising
Challenges and milestones