Measuring Social Return on Investment Before You Invest

Using a social return on investment framework, organizations can estimate the future impact, cost, and scale of programs before they begin, and allocate resources for greater impact.
By Matthew Forti and Jake Goldberg

Nonprofits serious about maximizing their social good typically use measurement to: improve programs during implementation and prove those programs post-implementation. And at One Acre Fund, which helps smallholder farmers prosper, we’ve found that the real-time learning and discipline that emerge from this kind of measurement drive greater impact per client over time.

But in recent years, as we’ve grown and pursued multiple delivery models in multiple geographies, we began to wonder whether we could use measurement data before implementing programs to determine which ones should get off the ground, and with what level of resources, in the first place.