July 12, 2016

Technological Bridges Connecting Funders & Nonprofits

It’s no secret that more and more funders are focused on results and impact, and that the simple act of “giving back” is no longer enough for them to support your organization. Increasingly, funders want to go beyond doing good—they want to focus on achievement through measurable outcomes that demonstrate that their investments (in the form of donations, grants, etc.) have improved the situation for the intended population.

This level of scrutiny must now be addressed, especially if you want to maintain or grow your donor base and raise more money for your organization. You need to measure your organization’s outcomes and impact—if you are not already doing this—and figure out how to turn that information into success stories that can be shared with prospective and current funders. While donor scrutiny has become a catalyst to set up outcomes measurement programs and to tell impact stories, the motivation has always been there—you want to have the most impact through the work that you do. Measuring program outcomes is the best way to get there, while also providing today’s funders with the information they are demanding.

The Road to Telling Your Impact Story

Let’s take a look at the benefits of measuring outcomes for your organization and programs.

Preparing to measure outcomes forces you to define not only the issues that need to be addressed, but also the steps needed to help resolve these issues or at least create some improvement. When you are clear about this, you can use this information to find and attract funders who are aligned with your organization and its mission. Once funders are on board, you can monitor progress toward those desired outcomes. You’ll be able to not only determine if your program is successful, but also learn and identify gaps to either adjust your program’s strategy or find ways to collaborate with other organizations to increase the impact you are having on your target population. And ultimately your development team will be better able to tell your organization’s impact story, which will bring you back full circle to finding and attracting more funders.

The bottom line is this: Establishing and measuring program outcomes and telling impact stories helps attract donors and funders, and ultimately ensures we are helping those in need. So, how do we set up outcomes measurement programs?

The people and organizations that have had the most success have done so by utilizing effective technology, which can be the bridge connecting funders and nonprofits to increase collaboration, drive higher performance, and ultimately, improve outcomes and impact.

Benefits of Effective Tech

With the right strategic focus supported by technology, process, and access to data, funders and nonprofits can work together more strategically to further help those they serve. Some of the key benefits of effective technology are:

  • Community and Collaboration: Funders and nonprofits focused on impact know that communication is key, and clear communication about program impact is dependent upon collaborating and using the same measures. Working together to determine key changes (outcomes) that participants experience will only help both parties achieve their goals. On the nonprofit side, you’re on the front lines and have firsthand insight into your community’s needs, so assisting the funder when they are developing their programmatic strategy is critical to everyone’s overall successes. Leveraging the power of a sector-sourced taxonomy of measures will give both funders and nonprofits a jumping-off point to further their collaboration and enable the sector to speak the same language, and thus to also truly collaborate and monitor progress towards achievement on key social issues.
  • Two-Way Communication: Results-focused organizations on both sides see the ability to foster stronger communication and increase collaboration as a path toward true partnership. That balanced, respectful partnership can help you achieve your intended impact more effectively. The right technology will facilitate a new level of communication and partnership between funders and nonprofits. Monitoring of progress toward shared goals and learning from that progress in clear, concise dashboards allows for easier identification of your organization’s achievements as well as needed adjustments to focus and/or strategy.
  • Data Access: Having access to relevant data that is timely and accessible will empower you to continue to inform and grow your program’s and organization’s impact.

Ultimately, technology can play a key role in optimizing and streamlining the process that funders and nonprofits go through when defining key measurements of a program. It opens the door to clearer communication, better definition of the results achieved, and more data at the ready to tell your impact story. It can help get you to a place that you wanted to go to anyway—knowing what your impact is, and continuing to grow your impact—and it can help you be better prepared for the increasing level of scrutiny you’re seeing from funders.

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Michelle DiSabato
Michelle DiSabato is a Philanthropic Impact subject matter expert with more than 20 years of experience developing, designing and implementing multi-million dollar philanthropic initiatives and programmatic social impact analyses. She recently joined Blackbaud’s MicroEdge business unit to help the giving community better leverage technology in their efforts to measure outcomes and tell their impact stories. Formerly a corporate program manager, Michelle has worked with a wide range of clients in industries ranging from healthcare and finance to consumer products and entertainment providers, helping them align their giving strategies to meet both their business and social responsibility needs. In her free time, she volunteers and also serves on the Advisory Board of A Fresh Chapter Foundation, an organization dedicated to healing the emotional scars of cancer by turning the page to possibility.
Interest Categories: Evaluation, Fundraising
Tags: Evaluation, measurement