With social impact measurement becoming increasingly important to donors of all types—individuals, corporations and foundations—nonprofits have rightly begun to allocate serious resources to evaluating their programs and quantifying the progress they are making in their missions. However, as numerous recent studies suggest, the sector continues to struggle in obtaining cash and nonmonetary support that specifically helps with this important activity, decrying a “catch-22” where funders require more and more evidence of program effectiveness but withhold the resources for obtaining it.
Bucking this trend is biotechnology firm Amgen and its new, multiyear partnership with the University of California, Berkeley that takes aim at an issue close to the company’s heart—cancer treatment. Under the partnership, the two will fund a graduate-level course on measuring outcomes of cancer patient advocacy education and support programs. The course, Social Impact Metrics, is designed to advance the ability of nonprofits to measure the effectiveness of their programs, with the ultimate goal to create a set of “measurement best practices” that can be adopted across the cancer nonprofit community and beyond, the groups said.
The idea for the partnership was borne out of a survey of cancer-oriented nonprofits conducted by Amgen in 2013. The study found that creating robust metrics can be a challenge in the social impact field, even as funders and other stakeholders call for stronger and more significant measures of effectiveness.
Working cooperatively with the university and the MBA students will be four cancer patient advocacy groups that will use grants from Amgen to measure the impact of their educational and/or support initiatives. The students and faculty will work with the groups to evaluate a specific metrics challenge, recommend a solution and provide an implementation plan by the end of the course in December, the company said.
Each of the groups below will receive $35,000 grants to support their end of the project:
- The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, which will work to measure the impact of its Patient Webinar Series, which was launched in 2012 to address a variety of education topics and features bladder cancer experts from highly regarded medical institutions.
- The Cancer Support Community, which will work to measure the impact of the CSC Cancer Support Helpline, which reaches thousands of patients, family members and health care professionals each year using licensed mental health professionals who provide telephone support interventions that help patients and caregivers identify and address needs and link them to vital information and resources.
- The Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation, which will evaluate the impact of its clinical trial database, Blue Data, which is designed to provide a simple and user-friendly interface that allows patients to accelerate the process of identifying appropriate clinical trials for participation and simplifying the screening process.
- Critical Mass, which will measure the impact of its “Mission Control” localized search engine of programs and services specifically curated for adolescents and young adults with cancer.
According to Amgen, the project will culminate in a set of best practices in nonprofit programming and metrics that will not only benefit the partnering organizations, but also the patient advocacy community at large that can modify their programs to maximize impact based on the case study solutions.
“Amgen and other health care companies provide substantial support to patient advocacy organizations with the hope that, together, we are making a difference in meeting the needs of patients and families,” said Amgen Senior Vice President Raymond Jordan in announcing the project. “By measuring the impact of these programs, we can learn how to be more effective in achieving our shared goal of improving the lives of people with cancer.”
Because the solutions generated through the program will be directly applicable to its own philanthropic efforts, Amgen is ensuring that its social investments are achieving the greatest possible impact, while also giving future social-sector professionals the tools they will need to evaluate the impact of other charitable groups down the line.
For more information, visit www.amgen.com.