Starting Your Impact Measurement Journey: Lessons from Gifts for Good’s Annual Report


Gifts for Good

You want to start measuring your team’s impact, but you haven’t found a good example of how to start. At least, you haven’t found one that matches your early journey. The information you found is usually from a big, long-standing company that has more resources, more standard operations, and more insight from many years of business. Luckily, there are social enterprises that share their early approaches to impact measurement.

The three themes below represent our exploration of how to approach social impact when stakeholders see the concern differently:

  • Looking at a concern from multiple angles
  • Taking stakeholder perspectives into account
  • Paying attention to how a concern evolves/ what may pop up during solution implementation

Exploring such themes help open us to new paths, and we can reaffirm these paths by finding similar examples that exist in real time.

Gifts for Good published an impact report earlier this year, and it’s actually their first impact report. They reflect on actions they used to solidify their internal impact and where they allocate funds & efforts to further amplify external impact. This 2022 annual report mentions the initiatives, collaborations, problem solving, and future aims of Gifts for Good’s latest efforts.

Gifts for Good excels in the pay-it-forward model of social impact. From this report, social entrepreneurs can learn ways to start reporting impact measurements and how to take social impact an extra step further. For today, let’s focus on a few of the 47-page report’s key lessons on showcasing early impact measurement, cultivating internal and external impact for initiatives, and setting future impact aims.

What’s in Gifts for Good’s Annual Impact Report?

Very briefly, here’s what you may want to know about the report in general.

To start, the following is the initiative’s self-introduction:

“Gifts for Good® is a mission-driven small business based in Los Angeles, California, dedicated to empowering the world to help people and the planet through gift-giving.”

Gifts for Good formed in 2017, making the company relatively young in the business world. The team is still refining operations, but they have a clear vision: “A world where every gift purchased gives back.”

The social enterprise is a Certified women-owned business through Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and a Certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) through the Federal Small Business Administration (SBA). They are also a certified B Corporation.

Two letters are included in the report. One by Founder & CEO Laura Hertz and another by Chief Impact Officer Jenise Steverding.

Gifts for Good’s reporting cycle related to this annual review is from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022. During that time, the initiative amplified 64 nonprofits & social enterprises in 50 states & 72 countries around the globe through various contributions. Each product in Gifts for Good’s catalog helps support at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) listed by the United Nations.

3 Lessons from Gifts for Good’s First Impact Report

As this is their first report, Gifts for Good took time to introduce how they go about amplifying impact and what ripples they’ve seen from their work so far. It’s not easy to decide what to share in a first report, so this is a refreshing example of another social enterprise offering their insights.

Lesson #1: Impact Measurement at a Glance

Reports don’t always need to be packed with gritty details, especially when first starting out. An initiative can want to build out a report that contains charts, trends, and percentages. Realistically, it may serve the team and stakeholders better to make note of the impact rather than going straight to “interpretation” of the data.

For example, Gifts for Good mentions they donated $1,176,556 to charity. They funded solutions related to children’s health, education, employment, animal welfare, and environment.

Below are a few of the highlighted impacts they mention:

  • Provided 4,139 hours of employment to women at-risk
  • Funded 8,275 months rides to treatments for cancer patients
  • Diverted 235 lbs of e-waste from landfills
  • Donated $47,661 to veterans in need

Notice that they highlight efforts and contributions outside of monetary donations. This allows you to imagine what their funds went towards and what the impact looks like in real life. Alongside giving the measurements at-a-glance, the report highlights the story behind a number of specific Cause Partners, such as the Kids In Need Foundation (pg. 19) or Women’s Bean Project (pg. 32).

“We believe strongly in measurement and transparency. Some interventions are harder to measure than others and we work with our Cause Partners up-front to define what will be measured. What we mutually agreed to track are the numbers we report out to our stakeholders.” – Jenise Steverding, Chief Impact Officer

Social enterprise teams that are small or relatively young business-wise can focus on first identifying where the impacts take place. This allows initiatives to build an inventory of their efforts without overwhelming themselves (or stakeholders) with piles of insights they’re not fully sure how to measure yet.

Lesson #2: Mention the Impact Models

Towards the start of the report, Gifts for Good has a “How we partner” section that describes what they look for in partnerships. The list of what they consider in their collaborations includes Long-term Partnerships, Output Measurements, Environmental Practices, and what they call “Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.”

For Output Measurements it states:

“We work with a variety of organizations with different impact models. We require output measurements that roll up into outcomes. The ability to measure impact is an important criterion for our model of transparency and reporting and is a requirement for partnership.”

Gifts for Good goes into impact measurement knowing there’s different impact models, which may also mean managing separate approaches to identifying impact. This section is also acknowledging that output and outcomes are two sets of data instead of just one. It shows the intention to recognize how they connect, but also how they stand alone.

Alongside this, Gifts for Good is introducing how they interact with impact internally and externally. As you see, the team explains their work with Cause Partners, and if you continue the report, you’ll notice they give the same care in talking about how they work with Clients (who do employee gift programs, brand merch, and such), as well as how they empower their own employees.

Quote Examples from the Report:

“We work with a wide variety of clients from large corporations like Google to nonprofits like the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to handle internal and external gifting needs.”

“In 2022, we proudly invested in our people—launching company-wide medical, dental, and vision benefits for all of our employees. In addition, we implemented a new matching 401(k) program, offered new benefits to employees including a budget for gifting to their friends and family, and committed to more inclusive hiring protocols. As we grow, we will continue to strive to improve our employee treatment to live our values.”

Reiterating the team’s values showcases the lens they use to make many of their impact decisions. Thus, building trust and transparency within their impact report.

Lesson #3: Share Milestones of the Impact Measurement Journey

One of the major highlights with Gifts for Good’s Impact Report is that they share how they became certified as a Climate Neutral company in 2022 after measuring, reducing, and offsetting the entirety of our carbon footprint. They dedicate two pages (pg. 11 – 12)  to share what the process looked like from working with Clime Neutral to measure Gifts for Good’s 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in 2021, all the way to  looking at employee commuting improvements to reduce their 2022 emissions.

That’s only one of the ways the initiative engages impact throughout the company. Gifts for Good also shares how the team volunteers in their community, reviews the impact they’ve had over their years, and commits to three goals they’re working towards for 2023:

  • Increasing transparency
  • Diversification of partnerships
  • Continued sustainability improvements
  • These are some of the themes they may post in the upcoming report as 2023 will be ending soon at the time of writing this post.

Social enterprise teams can adopt this approach of speaking about what they do to manage internal and external impact measurement. They may surprise themselves one day with how far they’ve come.

“Reflecting on Gifts for Good’s extraordinary growth, I am filled with gratitude and a grateful heart. I founded Gifts for Good® five years ago as a way to change the world through gift giving. At that time, I never would have believed that in just a handful of years—with the support of our global community—we could impact millions of people’s lives across 50 states and 72 countries.” – Laura Hertz, Founder & CEO

Start with What You Have

Every step can be a step toward better.

As social entrepreneurs, measuring and showcasing impact can seem like a puzzle. There are so many pieces, and it’s not easy to tell what fits where.

Instead, let’s consider an approach where we show what seems most important at this part of the journey. We get to share the progress, milestones, and lessons we’ve gathered up to the time of reporting.

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