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How can social investors measure the social impact of multiple projects in a cost-efficient way?

Posted by Marlon van Dijk on 3 September 2015



In the philanthropic sector, measuring social impact is still perceived as a challenge. The number of projects a social investors funds, combined with their diversity often result in large time and resource investments for both the investor and the investee (or grantee). Many social investors therefore feel they do not have the means to measure more than a few outputs, like the number of participants or workshops, or the total amount of volunteer work. Although this is a good starting point, it only scratches the surface of what the project or program has established, and tells you nothing about the true impact (and value) it has created. Has the target audience really been reached? Have their circumstances been changed? Only by giving a voice to the beneficiaries will you be able to decide if the right investment choices have been made.

An example of real value

Let me give you an example of measuring social value. Let’s assume a social enterprise gives women who are less equipped for the job market a chance to go to school and gain work experience. If you want to measure the value this creates, it is not enough to look at the number of graduations or the number of women who attend the program. The true value that is created depends on the outcomes of these outputs, and how important these outcomes are to the stakeholders concerned: the number of women who find a job, the increase in self-confidence, an increase in health because of a more structured lifestyle, etc. If you would only measure output you would not understand the change you have caused in the lives of these women. The same goes for creating negative value: it is possible that the program creates more negative than positive value. The only way to discern that is to look beyond the outputs and ask your stakeholders whether they are experiencing changes and if so, how important these changes are for them.

A case study

One of our customers - VSB Foundation, is a Dutch charity foundation that supports cultural and social initiatives. The VSB Foundation has supported social initiatives since its establishment in 1990 (VSB Foundation has its roots in the former VSB Bank) for a total of €661 million. In 2013 the foundation received more than 3.000 requests of which more than 40% have been granted. The total of yearly donations is over €25 million.

Voice of the beneficiary

Using the Sinzer platform the VSB Foundation can send surveys to stakeholders of different projects. By collecting data from the project beneficiaries, the people whose lives the project aims to change are given a voice, which is crucial for measuring the true value of the project. By creating standard templates and surveys in Sinzer, you can easily and effectively process the input of your beneficiaries. Furthermore, you’ll be able to gain a maximum insight into the results of your project as well as of the foundation as a whole. 15 of VSB foundation’s projects are currently being measured in a pilot phase. The goal is to gain experience in measuring the social impact of all VSB’s projects in order to establish good references for the future.

> Case Study VSB Foundation


Topics: Impact measurement, Value, Social impact, Stakeholders, Social change, philanthropy

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