In this two-part series on Stanford Social Innovation Review’s blog, FSG’s Katherine Errecart and Anjali Bhatt, and Shiloh Turner, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s vice president for Community Investment, discuss the importance of backbone organizations in collective impact initiatives. The second part of this series outlines the measures of influence that can help to demonstrate the backbone’s contributions to the collective impact effort.

Measuring Backbone Contributions to Collective Impact
Part two in a series on how backbone organizations shape the work of collective impact without formal authority.
By Shiloh Turner, Katherine Errecart, & Anjali Bhatt | Dec. 3, 2013

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) engaged the nonprofit consulting firm FSG to evaluate how and to what extent backbone organizations influence their constituents. In part one of this series, we laid out six sources of influence that enable backbones to guide and shape collective impact efforts without formal authority. This post describes measures of influence that backbone organizations can use to demonstrate their contributions.

One of the major dilemmas backbone organizations face is how to articulate their role and influence in collective impact efforts. To maintain its status as an objective and honest broker motivated by the common good (a source of influence discussed in our previous post), it is critical that the backbone does not come across as “taking credit” for these efforts. However, certain stakeholders, such as funders and board members, require evidence that the backbone has added value to justify their investments of time and money. Through our research, we identified four measures of influence that can help to demonstrate the backbone’s contributions: