ROI Goes to School and Church

Organizations of all types face accountability By Jack J. Phillips and Patti P. Phillips

Jack J. Phillips is chairman and Patti P. Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute.
They can be reached at


hen you think about ROI, you likely think of businesses and service organizations. In recent years, however, there has been a rise of ROI use among nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations, governments and health care. How are these organizations using the ROI Methodology to show the value of their projects and programs?

The Phillips ROI Methodology is a 10-step process organizations can use to show the value of programs and initiatives. It measures six types of data: reaction and planned data (level 1), learning (level 2), application and implementation (level 3), business impact (level 4), ROI (level 5) and intangibles.

Across the United States, school systems are implementing the ROI Methodology in their education programs, departments and functions. Some school systems have evaluated a program offered to sixth and seventh graders called “The Leader in Me,” available through FranklinCovey. This program is designed to help students assume more accountability and responsibility and become better team members. Programs such as these can have tremendous payoff, particularly in student and school outcomes. Demonstrating this value for the money spent increases the likelihood that school system leaders will continue investing.

Religious organizations are also turning to ROI. We are both slated to speak at upcoming conferences on the topic of ROI in the context of spiritual care. Additionally, we are working with a large Protestant church organization that has adopted our methodology as the framework and evaluation approach for its leadership center. By adopting the model, they hope to ensure leadership development is connected to impact measures from the start, keeping those measures in focus throughout the program using impact objectives and validating the alignment with impact in selected programs.

To date, 17 U.N. agencies have successfully implemented the ROI Methodology.

Church leaders know that by addressing the gaps in performance in their business measures, they can achieve their goal of creating 3 million “difference-makers” — people who effect or deliver change (level 3), make improvements and have an impact on those they influence (level 4).

Other types of nonprofits are also using ROI to measure their programs. A provincial government in Canada is asking food banks in that province to show the ROI for counseling services they offer, suggesting that budgets are down and they cannot continue to fund programs unless the monetary value to them is shown.

Through its Impact Hiring Initiative, FSG, a mission-driven consulting firm, is helping organizations implement and demonstrate impact and ROI of second-chance hiring programs, front-line supervisor programs, and upskilling programs for those who need essential work and life skills.

The United Nations System Staff College provides centralized training for the UN system. In 2008, it adopted the ROI Methodology with a plan to implement the system in all of its agencies. To date, 17 U.N. agencies have successfully implemented the methodology to show the value of its various projects and programs.

The Institute of Public Administration in Saudi Arabia has embarked on a program to bring ROI thinking to all government agencies in the country. The institute is responsible for training for the entire Saudi Arabian government.

Even charitable organizations are being asked to show the value they deliver, particularly at the impact level. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focusing squarely on impact and ROI issues. In 2017, Bill and Melinda devoted their annual letter to a memo they received from Warren Buffett in which he expressed his desire to see the “ROI” of the contribution he made to the foundation. Buffett gave or pledged about $30 billion to the Gates Foundation to be distributed to a variety of projects and programs throughout the world. Bill and Melinda provided an accounting of those projects and programs, showing impact data on each and the ROI calculation for one.

The impact and ROI scenario is playing out everywhere as organizations of all types face accountability. When you are asked to show the value for investment in L&D, remember that schools, churches and other nonprofits and NGOs are doing the same. All roads lead to ROI.