Spring training is right around the corner, so I thought it would be appropriate to dig into an analogy thrown out by Taproot’s Aaron Hurst at the 2011 BSR conference in San Francisco.
Aaron compared the recent innovations in corporate volunteer practices to Moneyball. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know the story: Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane revolutionized MLB roster management by employing a new approach to analyzing a player’s value. The “data nerds” have created a system that is more efficient and less risky, leading to improved performance for a franchise on the field and the balance sheet.
I agree with Aaron — there are a lot of similarities. The “old school” line of thinking had volunteer managers solely focused on episodic “hands on” activities such as cleaning the park, charity walks and food drives. The data used to analyze value for these experiences is almost exclusively centered around “outputs” (e.g. hours of service, pounds of food, dollars raised — stats akin to batting average and RBIs). This information is useful, but does not allow a company to paint a complete picture of the true value of that service.
There was no one Billy Beane figure in corporate volunteerism, but rather a collective desire to be able to define ROI better. Over the last several years companies in every industry have been experimenting with metrics, dashboards and logic models to better define the bottom line value of volunteerism. These tools allow companies to assess the opportunity and the investment with respect to the IMPACT it will make—because that’s a better indicator of success. And impact can be defined in several contexts simultaneously — on employees/company culture, in the communities where we operate, on our stakeholders, on our reputation and in the operation of our core business. We’ve moved from batting average to “on base percentage”—because whether you hit or walk, what matters is getting on base.
Now, the norm is to think about “outcomes” from service — what change has been affected as a result of the intervention of our employees? And, volunteer managers have expanded their definition of service to include a full spectrum of engagement opportunities: pro bono expertise, skills-based service, email and online engagements, and long-term ongoing projects.
By using the right analysis tools and focusing on the right data points, companies are getting more ROI from volunteerism programs. It’s a system any sabermetrics geek could love!