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What is the True Impact Social Impact Library?

Our library of social impact indicators combines the best thinking of evaluation experts, nonprofit organizations, and corporate social responsibility practitioners.

True Impact’s Social Impact Library houses over 150 social impact indicators. Each indicator is standardized (e.g., increased income, improved academic performance, improved food security), but requires a reporting nonprofit to share their own success threshold for that indicator and their methods of data collection. 

This balanced approach between standardization and flexibility allows both donors and nonprofits to aggregate and analyze the results of multiple social investments, while providing visibility into the variations that commonly exist across community investment programs.

How did True Impact select specific social impact indicators?

Since 2005, we have worked with over 150 corporate foundations and thousands of their nonprofit partners (from national organizations such as CARE, Junior Achievement, UNCF, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Trevor Project, to small volunteer-run local nonprofits) to collect, vet, and refine the indicators that now make up our ever-evolving library. 

Our goal is for each donor and nonprofit using our indicator library to be able to comprehensively and accurately represent the universe of material social impacts that result from their social investments. Any revealed gaps in our coverage drives our development of additional indicators.

What were the criteria for social impact indicators? 

Most donors invest in nonprofits as a way to improve the lives or wellbeing of certain populations in society. Our indicators therefore focus on outcomes (vs output or process metrics) to help donors and nonprofits to report on how much success is being achieved. 

How did True Impact develop the social impact indicators?

We built our indicators based on input from leading nonprofit practitioners across the social sector and a synthesis of their validated theories of change and existing measurement and evaluation regimes, desk research on academic and research studies, and our own original development work with subject matter experts. 

What is behind our flexible approach to impact measurement?

We were deliberate in our inclusive measurement strategy. Reporting taxonomies built solely on standardized indicators with rigid success criteria prevent nonprofits that use different measurement and evaluation regimes from participating (or lead to inaccurate reporting if nonprofits force their nonconforming data into that taxonomy).

Our reporting approach ensures that the simple numbers (e.g., how many outcomes are achieved) or resulting analyses (e.g., the cost per outcome or social return on investment (SROI) across programs) have the proper context. Without it, programs that appear to be outperforming their peers (with a lower cost per outcome, or higher SROI) may in reality be using less rigorous success criteria or data collection methods. Our approach recognizes the reality of these programmatic differences, and enforces the transparency necessary to accurately interpret the results.