Giving Thoughts


New Giving Thoughts Series Article: Defining Impact

By Alex Parkinson, Research Associate, The Conference Board

The latest edition of the Giving Thoughts series, entitled “Defining Impact,” is now available for download. Click here to access the free PDF. The piece continues with the theme of social impact measurement, addressing the importance of establishing a clear definition of impact. The Conference Board has identified social impact measurement as a key business issue for members, and we will continue to address the topic through Giving Thoughts blogs and series articles.

“Defining Impact” was authored by Cecily Wallman-Stokes, Katherine Hovde, Carol McLaughlin, and Katherina Rosqueta, all of whom work for the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Introduction from “Defining Impact”

The word “impact” is everywhere these days, but not everyone uses or understands it in the same way. Why does this matter? A clear definition of impact is necessary to develop an effective and rewarding philanthropic strategy, since impact definitions drive decisions and ultimately move dollars. Differing—but unvoiced—assumptions about the definition of impact can also create communication difficulties between donors, grantees, and beneficiaries. This report explores current definitions of impact in philanthropy and international development, with a particular focus on the ways impact definition can affect work serving women and girls. It aims to help donors develop their own definitions of impact and to clarify the many (sometimes conflicting) uses of the term “impact.” In places, it uses real-world examples from the perspective of those working in the women and girls space to illustrate the repercussions of those uses.

About the Giving Thoughts series

The Giving Thoughts series is a free online publication in which The Conference Board engages corporate philanthropy experts in an open dialogue about topical issues of concern to member companies. It is published monthly. To download previous editions, please click the titles in the right-hand column of this website.

About the Executive Editor

Alex Parkinson

Alex Parkinson
Research Associate
The Conference Board

Alex Parkinson is a Research Associate in the Corporate Leadership division of The Conference Board. He specializes in corporate philanthropy and sustainability. He is the Executive Editor of the Giving Thoughts blog and monthly publication series. Before joining The Conference Board in September 2013, Alex worked as a Senior Consultant in London and New York for corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultancy Context. He has advised some of the world’s leading multinationals on CSR communications and strategy development. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexParkinsonNY.


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Giving Thoughts series

The Conference Board Giving Thoughts series is a monthly online publication in which corporate philanthropy experts delve into the most pressing issues affecting our members.

Download the latest issues:
A Beginner's Guide to Measuring Social Value

Defining Impact

A Standard for Social Impact Reporting

Data Collection and Analysis in Philanthropy

Classifying Social Impact Measurement Frameworks

Deconstructing Impact Investing
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