Calculating ROI from Your Corporate Community Engagement

alison-cundiffby Alison Cundiff
Corporate Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

Like any other business function, corporate community engagement is expected to add value to the business. Robust efforts in this arena should have a blended value proposition — increasing returns on investment for both the company and the community. The challenge comes when trying to establish effective measurements for community impact and return on investment.

In an article posted on LinkedIn by Reana Rossouw of Next Generation Consultants, there are 5 things companies can do to measure return and impact of their corporate community engagement:

  1. Start with a policy: the policy statement needs to clearly define how community engagement will contribute to business goals and objectives. This should be done with both the business and community in mind so that sustained community impact is achieved.
  2. Use data to align business and community goals: collect data on both business and community goals and seek to align those goals. Once goals are set, it is easier to see how those goals are being met by asking specific questions. (Ex: If your goal is to support employee recruitment, retention, and productivity, ask: Does our reputation as a good corporate citizen help attract and retain employees?)
  3. Measure: Next, measure the data you have collected according to specific indicators. (Ex: If your goal is to support employee recruitment, retention, and productivity, measure: employee attitudes and satisfaction with the company.
  4. Assess the return on investment: a few different approaches can be used separately or together. These include performance assessments, stakeholder perception surveys, case analysis and project evaluation, and ROI assessment.
  5. Calculate Soft Returns: calculating ROI can help determine the bottom line and financial impact of community engagement, but what about the soft, intangible benefits? One measure is usually not enough to get a clear picture. Measures can include enhanced reputation, effectively addressing community needs, addressing company values, addressing employee needs, and new opportunities for innovation.

(Please view the article for a more detailed analysis of calculating ROI).

It all comes down to this: create a policy, set goals, measure outcomes, and calculate your ROI based on those measurements. This will lead to long-lasting, impact generating community engagement, that will benefit both your company and the community.

Day of Caring American Express

United Way of Salt Lake’s focus on data driven decision making can help companies make smart choices on how they invest their resources in our community.

For more information on how your company can be engaged in the community, please contact Amy Bosworth at or Alison Cundiff at

Day of Caring Regence

A. Alexander Day of Caring


When Solid Data Leads to Action – Kids’ Lives Improve

BillBill Crim
President & CEO, United Way of Salt Lake

Every day, in classrooms in our state and across the country, thousands of kids get left behind because adults fail to take advantage of opportunities that could change the trajectory of their lives forever.

We are incredibly proud that in Utah, the status quo is not good enough. We are proud we have data driven preschool providers focused on closing the opportunity gap, and we are proud our elected officials and business leaders are willing to innovate in order to improve educational outcomes that are no longer acceptable.

In August 2013, America’s first “Social Impact Bond” (SIB) or “Pay for Success” (PFS) transaction for early childhood education was established in Utah. Two years later, the results from the first cohort of children to receive high-quality preschool financed through the PFS transaction show that both the preschool intervention, and the PFS financing mechanism itself, have been successful, based on a review by an independent evaluator. This was only possible because state and local government, educators, parents, nonprofits, service providers, and the private sector came together to share in the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of our children and families here in Utah.

_MG_4712 BEST

The foundation for Utah’s PFS transaction and later HB96, the Utah School Readiness Initiative, was built on a longitudinal study of outcomes for low-income children who attended a high-quality preschool program in Granite School District (GSD) which was subsequently expanded to private and nonprofit providers through support from the Kellogg Foundation.

As part of the study, children participating in GSD’s high-quality preschool program were assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (“PPVT”), an assessment that serves as an indicator for future academic success.  For children who score two standard deviations below the mean, the test also serves as an indicator of the likelihood of later use of special education and remedial services. The PPVT has been recommended by the Committee on Developmental Outcomes and Assessments for Young Children convened by the National Research Council, and others as a reliable and valid assessment, but it is NOT being used in Utah’s PFS project as an assessment for special education eligibility.

Students who scored two or more standard deviations below the mean in the study were identified as likely to be referred to and potentially be eligible for special education services. All students’ academic achievement levels are tracked as they progress through school. The study demonstrated that between 25% and 33% of the low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in the 11 most impoverished schools in GSD tested below the level that would indicate potential eligibility for special education. However, when those students received high-quality preschool through GSD, 95 percent did not need special education, allowing the state to avoid special education costs for up to 13 years for each child.

  • 737 low-income children who attended GSD high-quality preschool during a three-year period (i.e. 3 cohorts of children) were included in the longitudinal study
  • Of these children, 238 tested as potentially eligible to use special education services during the study period
  • At the end of the study period, only 11 students had used special education services through 3rd grade
  • Low-income children in the study entered kindergarten at the top of their class, stayed at the top of their class, and have closed or significantly reduced the achievement gap in language arts and math. Results have now held for more than five years.

The significant cost avoidance demonstrated in the study created the conditions for a Pay for Success transaction, which was based on the same methodology.

Recently, a New York Times article called into question the methodology used in Utah, and made claims that no program could achieve the type of outcomes reported because the program wasn’t expensive enough. The article reflects longstanding debates in the early childhood field about both curriculum and testing methodology, and contains a variety of inaccuracies, misleading comparisons of data, and assumptions by early childhood experts that have no local knowledge or basis for their claims.  While there is no perfect methodology or even one that would generate consensus within the early childhood field, Utah’s methodology was vetted both locally and nationally by early education and special education experts and leaders. We are confident in the process we implemented to lay out the program. We chose to act with the best data available, and are committed to learning and continuous improvement as we go. Our children need and deserve no less than this type of action.

It’s important to note that the NYT article misstates Utah’s use of the PPVT – again, it is NOT used to “screen for special education.” Data used in the article also presents a fundamentally misleading comparison—using data for all children regardless of income to compare with Utah’s data that only represents low-income children.

Utah’s cost per child is low, and Utah has a unique local context in terms of cost. We recognize that costs would be higher in most other places, but are proud that the model has worked here in Utah since 2006. Utah’s quality criteria are expressly stated in legislation, and our data going back to 2006 show that this program improves academic outcomes for kids and that their performance remains high well-beyond preschool. We are thrilled that we have achieved high-quality at a low cost, while replicating the model locally from one school district to private providers, nonprofits, charter schools and another school district.

We are proud that Utah’s School Readiness Initiative has brought together so many stakeholders from so many sectors around a common goal. We are proud that these partners were willing to use data collected over a long period of time to act and improve, rather than working in isolation and waiting for more money while thousands of kids continue to be left behind.

Utah is on the right track, and absolutely committed to learning and improvement as we go. We have chosen to give kids a strong start necessary to succeed in school and life. We have chosen to invest now in order to enjoy long-term savings, with a more vibrant state of healthy, achieving children and more stable families.  We look forward to working with other stakeholders to continue to improve on this pioneering project.


Questar Rocks United Way of Salt Lake – Again!

allison-tby Allison Temnick
Community Investment Advisor

This year, it has been my joy and privilege to help Questar coordinate its corporate giving campaign. If you do not already know, Questar takes corporate social responsibility very seriously. Because of its culture of generosity, enthusiastic United Way planning committee, and dollar for dollar corporate match, Questar is United Way’s largest corporate supporter every year – and this year will be no exception!

If I went into detail about all of the campaign activities Questar hosted, this would be a very long blog, so I will just focus on a few. First of all, Questar recognizes the value in getting every employee involved in the campaign. As you can imagine, this requires a great deal of coordination for a company as large as Questar. Each year, the Questar committee selects a team of Coordinators and Champions that plan campaign activities for their departments. The campaign kickoff is a training meeting for all Coordinators and Champions where the campaign theme is officially announced. This year’s theme was “Be a Rockstar,” so the room was decorated with posters and cardboard cut outs, senior leadership showed up in rockstar costumes, and employees wrote and performed songs. The energy and enthusiasm was contagious!


After that, Coordinators and Champions planned rockstar-related activities for their departments, which included six kickoff presentations, ten site visits, three in-kind donations drives, and two volunteer projects, just in the Salt Lake region alone! You would have to search long and hard to find a Questar employee that was not involved in this year’s United Way campaign in one way or another.


In addition to those activities, Questar planned several special events, including a bake sale, pinewood derby, cornhole tournament, and a 5K. I had the opportunity to attend all of these events, so I can assure you – they were a great time! My personal favorite were the rockstar costumes at the 5K and the fact that an entire floor shut down for a few hours during the finals of the cornhole tournament. Questar may know how to have a good time, but they take competition pretty seriously!


Thank you to each and every Questar employee for your participation in this year’s United Way campaign. Our community is better off because of your generosity!


Cirris Systems – a Small Company Filled with Big Hearts

Mike Wattsby Mike Watts
Community Investment Advisor

Cirris Systems – a small company filled with big hearts, cables, wires, and toast.

Unless you are a cable testing enthusiast, you may not have heard of Cirris Systems. For over 30 years, Cirris Systems has been a world leader in manufacturing cable testers. For almost as long, Cirris Systems employees have been giving to United Way of Salt Lake. In fact, 12 out of the 50 employees at Cirris Systems are members of the Diamond Donor network. These are donors that have contributed to United Way for 20 years or more!!
So, why are Cirris System employees so dedicated to making a difference in our community? This is how they answer that question in their own words:

“I feel blessed with the job I have and the friends I work and associate with. I have been fortunate enough to meet my needs and fulfill many of my wants. There are people in our community that are not as fortunate and sometimes need a helping hand.  There are many worthwhile organizations that have been established to help those who may be in need of assistance, and as much as one would like to, it is impossible to give to all of them.  I like that United Way works with many different organizations to help individuals and families within a community become stronger and more self sufficient, rather than just apply a “band-aid” to temporarily fix a problem. I do not have the knowledge to do this, and the fact that 100 percent of my donation goes to meet community needs is a plus when choosing which organization to contribute to. Also the payroll deduction option makes donating easy and hassle free.” –Anonymous

“United Way of Salt Lake has always shown they do what they claim they do.”  –Tony

“I often see people in the community that need help. I feel that by giving through United Way of Salt Lake, my giving can be the most effective.”  –Kevin

“I want to help in the community but don’t know where the needs are. This is a perfect way to contribute to the community and know that my money is being used in the best possible way.”  –Annette

“Being able to see what United Way of Salt Lake has done for communities in need has been a major driving factor in my contributing. It is amazing to think that children and families are able to receive healthcare and get the education they deserve because of contributions to United Way!”  –Sheena

Thank you, Cirris Systems, for LIVING UNITED!!!

Building shot[1]

Rocky Mountain Power Executives in Scuba Gear? Find Out Why!

allison-tby Allison Temnick
Community Investment Advisor

One of the biggest corporate benefits of a United Way campaign is the way it can boost the morale of employees. Rocky Mountain Power took it up a notch this year by hosting an online auction, a golf tournament, and a community giving festival!

This year’s online auction was a huge success, raising over $35,000 in just three days. Rocky Mountain Power had incredible items like hotel packages, tickets to sporting events, televisions, and even a guitar autographed by the Rolling Stones. Rocky Mountain Power also hosted its annual golf tournament recently, which was bigger than ever! More than 170 golfers showed up bright and early for a day of fun to raise additional donations for United Way of Salt Lake.

The highlight of all of these campaign activities was just a few weeks ago, when Rocky Mountain Power employees were invited to take some time out of their jobs to attend a Community Giving Festival. The event included a barbecue, DJ, and everyone’s favorite event – a dunk tank for executives from the company!

DSC_0458As you can imagine, the dunk tank was the highlight of the afternoon – one Rocky Mountain Power executive received 600 votes for the dunk tank before the festival even got started! To add to the fun, many executives dressed up in costumes and taunted employees who were trying to dunk them. Rocky Mountain Power’s CEO Cindy Crane took it to the next level by dressing up in a full scuba suit for the event!

DSC_0469Thank you, Rocky Mountain Power, for being a great example of corporate social responsibility and for putting the “fun” in fundraising!

You all know what it means to LIVE UNITED! 

DSC_0470Rocky Mountain Power

On Being a Fundraiser

Megan Richardsby Megan Richards
Community Investment Advisor

When people ask me what I do, the easiest answer is “I’m a fundraiser.”

This elicits varied responses with one of the most common being “good for you — but I could never do that.” When people try to envision themselves as fundraisers they simply think of how uncomfortable they feel asking colleagues for money, but I want to expand that view.

As a fundraiser, I get to see the best side of people. I get to see when people are generous, caring, and concerned — not only about those close to them but also our community at large. And this is not uncommon in my work. According to the 2014 World Giving Index, a comprehensive study of Gallup polls conducted each year by the Charities Aid Foundation, the United States ranks in the top ten nations in the world for citizens donating money, and we are first in the world of donations, volunteering, and helping a stranger are considered in unison (1). And I get to be a fundraiser here!
If people are going to give, then I as a fundraiser want to make sure their money is going to make a measurable difference. At United Way of Salt Lake we take our promise to change the odds for children and families very seriously. Every day we work with local schools, business, governments, and other nonprofits to align resources and bring services to where they are needed most. Best of all, we are seeing results and sharing them with those who donated to make change possible (2).

Parsons volunteer 1
So the next time your boss or your employees ask you to run a United Way charitable giving campaign and you feel a moment of panic thinking of asking your colleagues for donations, step back and remember this: we are a charitable nation. People – our friends, family, and colleagues – want to give and want to make a difference in their community!

Let’s open pathways for them to be part of something bigger and to make meaningful change. Let’s make it possible for everyone to LIVE UNITED.

Savage LIVE UNITED Volunteers

ˡ Charities Aid Foundation. (2014). World Giving Index 2014. Retrieved from
2 Promise Partnership Regional Council (2015). The promise of partnership: Aligning action for results. Retrieved from

Why am I Invested in United Way of Salt Lake?

SeanSlatter 5195 BWby Sean Slatter
CEO, Logistic Specialties, Inc (LSI)
Executive Committee and Davis County Chair
United Way of Salt Lake Board of Directors,
Guest Blogger


My involvement with United Way stems back more than 20 years, when LSI was looking for a way to better support the community—to build something to tie the company to the community. A small team was tasked with identifying opportunities and proposing recommendations. Reflecting back, it’s not a coincidence that United Way was presented as the best option for building a partnership in community giving.

Our first corporate campaign was nothing short of a success, with 100 percent participation and the highest per capita giving to United Way in Davis County. When these results were replicated the following year, I found myself on the receiving end of an eager invitation to join the United Way board!

LSI stamp copyWhat has drawn me to United Way, and what keeps this partnership energizing decades later, can be summed up in a word—innovation. United Way of Salt Lake has been at the forefront of efforts to address systemic social issues in our community in a more fundamental and effective away, and to execute best practices with better-leveraged resources to truly change the odds.

The essence of United Way is improving individual lives and building stronger communities. I’m honored to serve, and I look forward to what we can collectively accomplish over the next 20 years!