Making the Case for Your Program: Social Return on Investment

juvenile-court_calculations-on-graph-paperIs your program for youth in juvenile court worth it? 
Does it really make sense to spend all that money on treating a kid for his drug habit, or to provide 20 teens with job readiness skills? 
Chances are, it does. Your program probably saves the community a lot of money in avoided costs -- but can you prove it?  That's the tricky part.

But suppose you had someone on your side like Kristina Smock. She's got a Ph.D. from Northwestern and over 10 years of experience consulting for non-profits and local government.
A few years ago, she performed a cost-benefit analysis or New Avenues for Youth, a program in Portland, Oregon, that serves homeless youth. She found that New Avenues saved the community $4.12 for every $1.00 invested.
That's a pretty powerful thing to be able to tell policy makers and funders.
And she's in your corner. Check out the webinar she did for us on July 28, 2010, titled, "Social Return on Investment: Practical Tools for Cost-Benefit Analysis." In it, she gave a lucid explanation of what cost-benefit analysis is, strategies for applying it to social service programs, and concrete examples of how she did hers. (Follow the link to watch the webinar, download her slides or the associated worksheets.)
Worried about what a cost-benefit analysis might cost your organization? First, think about what it might cost the young people and families you serve if you don't. Then start a list of local funders to approach -- chances are, they'll definitely think your program's worth it. 
Photo: adactio.

Updated: August 02 2010