First of all, thank you to those of you who were able to attend this community’s first webinar in our course series on ROI! We hope you now have a good understanding of ROI and how to calculate it. Our upcoming webinars will build on this one, but if you weren’t able to attend the first webinar, you can still attend the next ones. One question that came up that we weren’t able to dive deeply into during the short hour we had was about defining and calculating tangible (or “hard”) versus intangible benefits. In the first example of the webinar, children’s opportunity to learn and have fun organizing and running a lemonade stand was considered a highly valuable intangible benefit. Opportunities like that are difficult to quantify, but they are important to include when calculating ROI. Time, items sold, calls answered, tasks completed—all these things are easier to convert into monetary terms. Numbers, however, don’t always tell the whole story. Although calculating ROI is a method of looking at the data and numbers, intangibles must be included in that data. Having those intangibles does not take away from the credibility of an ROI analysis—rather, it adds another dimension to the analysis, taking into account benefits that may otherwise be missed.
Calculating ROI is a nuanced activity that gets easier with practice. It’s straightforward in its formula, but feeling good about deciding how much value to assign to intangibles comes with practice. Start thinking about the intangible benefits of certain decisions in life—for example attending college and graduate school, which may not show a positive ROI for years—and decide for yourself what kind of value you would assign to those things. What about the ROI on performing volunteer work? On investing in experiential training for your employees? Please share any ROI stories, scenarios, or questions you have.