This is how to articulate impact for impact investors
Impact investing is exploding. Assets under management grew from 502B in 2019 to 715B in 2020, a 46% percent increase in just one year. And according to the GIIN, “nearly universally”, impact investors agree on the importance of impact measurement and management, not only for understanding impact performance, but also for driving business growth as well.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re planning to raise capital from impact investors, they are going to ask you how you measure your impact. They may not have clear expectations for how you should respond, but they will ask. Depending on your stage of development, they may ask you to track and report on your impact along side your financials as well. The founders who are prepared to respond to these questions with clear data and analytics will be positioned to differentiate themselves. Indeed, 80% of the companies in our portfolio have raised a total of $127M of funds from impact investing within one year of working with us.
Here is how to position yourself to succeed:
Align your metrics with global standards. The UN SDG star gets and indicators, the Impact Management Projects (IMP) 5 dimensions of Impact, and the IRIS+ core taxonomy provide a solid core set of metrics designed to standardize how we talk about what we’re measuring and the goals we’re all pursuing. Do your best to align with them so your data and analytics will be compatible with any other framework referenced by stakeholders. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your metrics need to be pulled directly from these standards. Don’t try to measure something that you don’t do or that provides meaningless data. Define your metrics to be meaningful and measurable for your work. Then align these with global standards. If they match perfectly, fantastic. If not, that’s perfectly fine as well.
Focus. Identify the top 2-4 metrics that underscore your core value proposition. The investors who’ll potentially be doing the impact investing don’t expect your innovation to save the world. In fact, some only track one impact metric over the duration of their investment. Measure what matters most.
Just like you articulate the cost savings, time savings, or improved performance of your innovation, you want to articulate the degree to which your impact performance solves a problem as well. This is key when it comes to getting social impact investing funds. How many people or resources are affected by the social or environmental problem your innovation addresses? For how many of these can you alleviate the problem they experience? Abstract numbers convey less meaning than relative ones. Impact is all about material change that is uniquely attributable to your innovation. We can claim responsibility for outcomes that may have happened anyway. Your impact is the volume of change you create in the world. Lay this out for investors. They may not have the same domain expertise that you do so make it as clear and consumable as possible.
Validate your impact
Some 66% of impact investors have recently expressed significant concerns about “Impact washing,” or unsubstantiated claims of impact. Legitimize your impact claims as much as possible and that’s the best way to impress impact investing firms. Reference research, provide primary data, and have a third-party review and validate your claims. You will be prepared to speak with much more credibility.
These days, a lot of companies struggle with impact assessment. While social mission drives 33% of startups, many social entrepreneurs struggle to quantify impact. Founders often lack an understanding of the levers within their business models that drive social or environmental impact, or the value they create as a result. Social impact assessments offer founders the tools to build businesses that reflect their mission, and offer powerful proof points for unlocking the $715 Billion impact capital market. Most social entrepreneurs want this level of clarity regarding their company’s impact operations but feel overwhelmed and confused about where to begin and how. Often, they expect the price tag for this work to exceed their modest budgets.
ImpactableX simplifies social impact assessment by providing a core impact modeling framework that generates verified, standardized and quantified impact analytics. Designed specifically for social entrepreneurs and their investors by an award-winning impact accelerator - GoodCompany Ventures - in 2014, ImpactableX provides a core modeling framework that allows founders to evaluate impact creation under various growth scenarios, and make management decisions that optimize for both revenue and impact. It can be applied to any business model, any impact vertical, and at any stage of development, and as founders evolve their sales estimates and collect primary impact data, they can revise the inputs to their core impact model to understand their broader consequences.
This approach to social impact assessment goes far beyond static snapshot quantification. It provides a consistent, centralized impact management tool that dynamically evolves.
During an impact assessment, we guide founders through the three components of the ImpactableX framework to build their own impact model. First, we define a company’s core impact metrics - the measurable expressions of impact that capture the salient drivers of a company’s value proposition. Then, our impact assessment template will align these metrics with global standards like the SDGs and the IRIS+ core metrics to be sure we’re all measuring the same things and working towards aligned goals.
Then we move into Attribution, where we evaluate a company’s “additionality” or contribution to a problem compared to a baseline. We calculate the change that is attributable uniquely to a company’s intervention. This step of a business impact assessment yields insight into both unit-level impact efficacy as well as the total impact outputs over time, typically 5 years. Detailed business impact analysis helps management teams to begin to see their company’s impact potential under various scenarios.
ImpactableX impact assessments allow social entrepreneurs to understand the full value their innovation generates. Social impact creates tremendous new value and cost savings, however, this value is not reflected in a company’s revenue because the impact is often externalized - experienced by a third party or the commons. The Valuation component of an iX impact assessment captures this value by calculating the geographically and demographically relevant cost savings and value creation catalyzed by an innovation. We can assess how, and to what degree, sales drive impact value creation.
ImpactableX impact assessments guide founders through the application of this methodology to their unique business models. We compute analytics that unlock massive opportunities. New technologies offer powerful tools to offer access at unprecedented levels for marginalized populations and strained resources around the world. Founders need to be able to articulate the degree to which their technology can affect change. This is no longer optional. According to the GIIN, 100% of impact investors consider social impact assessment metrics important during screening and due diligence. The founders who can articulate their impact potential with this degree of analytical rigor and have an ImpactableX certification mark will be the ones who will differentiate.