How to Demonstrate Cause Impact

As consumers become savvier about social and environmental issues, organizations are continually challenged to deliver sophisticated programs with an eye toward transparency. One way companies can keep up with consumer expectations is by communicating progress toward stated goals or measuring the results of programs in relevant and compelling ways. We took stock of the ways organizations are reporting results and consumer impact and identified six common approaches:

  1. Ongoing Tracking – Results are continuously updated in real time
    Pro: Real-time reporting motivates consumers to get involved to help move the ticker
    Con: Demonstrates collective impact, not necessarily impact of individual
    Example:GE Plant a Bulb” - every time someone views a video on its website, GE will donate a flower bulb. It keeps a running tally of bulbs planted on the campaign page.
  2. Interactive Impact Calculator – Impact is shown through an interactive calculator
    Invites consumers to crunch the numbers and instantly understand how their personal donation or action will impact the cause
    Con: Does not necessarily capture the ongoing, collective progress of the campaign
    Example: Starbucks “The Big Picture” - Starbucks shows its impact through a customized impact calculator where consumers can enter the number of cups they save per day by using a reusable mug to see how many trees they save over 50 years.
  3. Storytelling – Impact is communicated by sharing personal stories of people who were affected by the issue and helped by the program
    Makes the outcome real through human connections that satisfy consumers’ emotional needs
    Con: Is abstract and lacks a quantitative component to demonstrate overall progress
    Example: Downy “Touch of Comfort” – Downy demonstrates impact by providing follow-up stories of kids who spend their nights away from home and benefit from the gift of a quilt from Downy.
  4. Customized Mapping – A customized map shows consumer impact – locally or globally
    Makes the contribution tangible to each individual and is an excellent way to localize a national or global campaign
    Con: Does not necessarily show the collective impact of the campaign
    Example: Odwalla “Plant a Tree” – for every visit to related parks, Odwalla will pay for a tree to be planted. Consumers can choose a state and locate their tree online.
  5. Mosaic – Consumer effort (making a donation, signing a pledge) helps complete a visual mosaic representing the campaign
    Makes consumers’ contribution fun and essential to “complete” the whole picture
    Con: Although they are a necessary part of the whole, consumers may feel lost in the large picture
    Example: The Body Shop “Stop Sex Trafficking” – by signing the petition, consumers will help The Body Shop raise awareness about the terrible crime of sex trafficking. With the visual roster, consumers can see the names of those who have signed the petition.
  6. Social Math – Potential consumer impact is demonstrated through a simple, clear (often one-to-one) equation
    Makes overwhelming issues (e.g., preventable diseases) more approachable; showcases how consumer action has a true, measureable result
    Con: Consumers still want to know the overall outcome which requires additional reporting (e.g., 1 pack = 1 vaccine, but ultimately how many lives are saved?)
    Example: Pampers “1 Pack = 1 Vaccine” – for every product bought, Pampers will provide UNICEF with funding for a life-saving vaccine to protect a mother and baby against tetanus.

There are a variety of fun and compelling ways to share results with consumers and help them understand their contribution – but don’t forget that these are reporting outputs (e.g., one million online signatures), not outcomes (e.g., reduction in sex crimes). Reporting results is step one in the process, but consumers still want to hear the full story of how you’ve made an impact on the social or environmental issue at hand.


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