In common with a growing number of corporate partners, the Zurich Community Trust, the charitable arm of global insurance company Zurich, is not content merely to bask in an ill-defined glow of 'doing good'. It seeks something more tangible.
So the trust decided to quantify exactly how its seven-year, £275,000 partnership with Canine Partners, a charity that trains dogs as live-in assistants for disabled people, benefits society. It calculated that the partnership had saved the state £1.4m in social care costs by cutting the number of hours that human carers need to spend with the charity's beneficiaries.
Other benefits, such as the increased wellbeing and self-confidence of disabled people, cannot be expressed on a balance sheet. But Steve Grimmett, senior programme manager at the trust, says the process is still very valuable.
"The days of straight philanthropy have gone and you want to know what you're getting for your money," he says. "Funders want to know what difference they are making."
Zurich has found an enthusiastic ally in Terry Knott, chief executive of Canine Partners. Measuring the value of the charity's work in financial terms, he recalls, was the first thing he did when he took on the job five years ago.
"Nobody had done it before," he says. "They had just said 'these are very valuable dogs and they do a wonderful job', which was basically the end of the story."
So Knott set about working out how much each dog was worth in terms of saving social care costs - about £60,000 per dog over their 10-year working lives.
"Knowing that is helpful because it justifies us doing what we do," he says.
According to Grimmett, such financial calculations of the social benefits can also help charities to find new corporate partners. "In fundraising pitches, charities have found it useful to articulate what someone can get for their money," he says. "They're not doing it in a retrospective way, but in a proactive way."
Not that Canine Partners finds it hard to attract corporate suitors. Unusually for a small charity, one-third of its income comes from the private sector, and its partners include famous names such as investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Knott is aware that the charity's combination of assisting disadvantaged people and a cuddly, four-legged image is seductive to companies.
"The fact that we are helping disabled people and involving puppies and dogs is a double whammy," he says. "We are a warm and attractive charity."
The Zurich partnership is a case in point. Animal charities were favourites of Zurich staff, but the company's charitable mission was limited to helping disadvantaged people. The choice of Canine Partners kept employees happy and avoided mission creep.