Social enterprise has quickly become a buzzword in the startup sector—companies that focus not only on bottom line, but also on the “social impact” they have on the communities or environments they serve. At Inspiring Capital, we call ourselves a social enterprise: a for-profit startup driven by a social mission to provide business talent to organizations that will help them grow and be sustainable. As such, we must ask ourselves: how do we tangibly define and measure our social impact?
Inspiring Capital’s Social Impact
At Inspiring Capital, we aim to have an impact in two primary ways:
- Enhancing the capacity for business professionals in the social sector, broadly defined to include nonprofits, social enterprises, impact investors, b corporations, corporate social responsibility, and strategic philanthropy (through our Fellowship programs); and,
- Developing services that will enable not-for-profit organizations and other social enterprises to enhance and scale their programs (through our client consulting services).
Business school students and professionals alike are seeking more meaningful work, but opportunities in the nonprofit/social sector are often difficult to find, poorly paid, and lack access to professional development and training—all factors that make jobs in consulting and finance more attractive. Inspiring Capital’s fellowship programs combine a cohort model, training, and guided project consulting experience for interested professionals and MBA students looking to explore the space. Our goal is to fill the skills and opportunity gap for all individuals seeking to transition into the social sector.
Many nonprofits (and social enterprises) that run highly-effective programs struggle to find the funding to bring them to scale. Hiring a qualified business or strategy person to develop reliable funding sources—aside from throwing bake sales (or galas)—is beyond the financial capacity of these nonprofits, as are the fees of large consulting firms like Bridgespan. Inspiring Capital’s short-term fellowship programs were intentionally built to serve those needs on an affordable project-basis—providing MBA students and business professionals as short-term consultants serving nonprofits and social enterprises on business/finance-related issues. Our goal is to meet the needs of all nonprofits seeking business expertise.
Here, I focus on the second of our impact goals: effective client service delivery.
Inspiring Capital’s Theory of Change
A theory of change is the means by which resources are employed, through various activities, to achieve specific outcomes.
For Inspiring Capital clients, short-term MBA talent performs activities, including market research and analysis, which is then molded into financial models and earned income strategies for our clients. The outcome is a client understanding of the usefulness of MBA skills in their organizations, as well as the implementation of an earned income model that will generate revenue for the organization. Over time, additional revenue translates to larger scale or better programs for the people that organization serves.
Impact Data & Metrics
For Inspiring Capital clients, we focus on two facets of success:
- The client’s familiarity and appreciation of working with MBA/business talent, and
- The benefit of earned income strategy on the organization.
The quantitative results are impressive. In 2014, we observed:
- An average increase, as a result of our program, of 30% in the organizations’ understanding of and preparedness to navigate the challenges associated with recruiting, managing, and retaining MBA talent;
- 50% of 2014 Fellows received full-time offers from one of our clients at the close of the Fellowship;
- 100% of Fellows seeking full-time opportunities immediately following the Fellowship secured roles at social impact organizations;
- 43% of our clients wanted to hire another MBA Fellow the following year.
We also measured our outcomes in terms of project effectiveness and implementation. In 2014,
- 83% of clients implemented the pricing or earned income strategy built by the Fellow;
- One nonprofit organization immediately established a for-profit subsidy and has generated revenue from the Fellow’s project, in accordance with the Fellow’s guidelines and modeling;
- Several clients are continuing to explore earned revenue and the next steps to implementation.
The impact on our clients should also be considered qualitatively, as our small sample size means the data is not yet significant. Anecdotal evidence of our success includes:
- Team members at client organizations wanting to leave to get an MBA themselves;
- Additional departments within the same organization looking for MBA project-work;
- Grassroots (rather than management-level) conversations beginning around earned income opportunities within organizations; and,
- Cultural shifts to adapt the IC culture, including lunch & learns around social enterprise trends.
Moving forward, we will continue to collect data on the organizations who implement earned income strategies as a result of our engagement, which will help us better understand the additional revenue generated from those activities and the subsequent increase in the number of people or communities they are able to serve.
Simultaneously, over the next several years, our sample size will continue to grow exponentially as we scale our programs. We will continue to measure the types of jobs offered by our client organizations as well as their perceived understanding of the value of working with business professionals in the sector.
Inspiring Capital is a young organization, but the promising results we’ve already seen indicate significant potential impact in the future. We are well on our way to building the movement we envision, of business professionals creating greater scale for social impact projects worldwide and a shift in the broader “charitable” mentality towards the realization that we can all do well by doing good.
- Kate Canfield, Client Engagement Manager