Data is at the heart of our mission at UpMetrics. We believe that data can serve as a connector to drive collaboration, transparency, and open access to knowledge, leading to growth and accelerating progress toward outcomes. 


As we empower the social impact ecosystem with the tools to collect, visualize and share real-time information, 2020 has shown us that data alone will not drive change. It is the ability to connect data and story to activate the emotion that sparks action towards collective goals.  


At this time of year for reflection, as impact organizations tackle unprecedented times, UpMetrics examined top trends from our clients and community partners, selecting five themes that we believe will continue to play an important role in 2021. The number one learning from 2020: it takes a team with a shared vision to inspire change. Alone we simply cannot drive the level of change needed.


UpMetrics was built on the vision of a data-driven ecosystem that drives capital and resources to impact. We hope that this list will not only help to illuminate the incredible work organizations have already gotten started this year, but also inspire you to think about new solutions to old and new challenges. 


5 themes to explore for 2021:


  1. Baseline reality with information and accountability. A silver lining to 2020 was that community voice was heard through data and story, spotlighting social sector inequalities to drive uncomfortable conversations and accountability. To make social change requires a partnership approach rooted in a vision that addresses the reality of where we are currently. It is only with this awareness that we will be equipped to tackle the challenges in our communities and identify solutions to achieve the progress that we seek. 
  2. Collaboration continues to serve as a key theme in philanthropy. With the pandemic driving urgency to share available information and resources to tackle local needs, we are excited to see more cross-sector and stakeholder collaboration next year, as well as a continued shift toward “trust-based philanthropy.” By sharing information and proactively engaging community voice, local organizations and leaders are able to better understand the most pressing challenges facing their communities, helping identify partners, build programs, and provide resources to truly address those demands. With community needs changing on a daily basis, it will be important for donors to help build nonprofit capacity, trusting and empowering their grantees to take ownership of their impact story.
  3. Data alone does not tell the story. We have to apply context to the information. Impact organizations are pointing to qualitative data points as they share their story, just as often as they are highlighting numbers. Think of all of the events of this year - the pandemic, wildfires, the fight for racial justice, and the election. It would be impossible to understand the shift in priorities or certain outputs from impact organizations without this context. As impact organizations collect and rely more on real-time information, the need for further clarity and context will be critical. Setting goals and tracking progress will require a combination of quantitative and qualitative information to drive the foundation of long-term growth, building programs rooted in contextual information that can inform and guide future decision-making.
  4. Engaging your audience is personal. As impact organizations apply a more data driven approach to facilitate action during these volatile times, it can be difficult to keep your story concise and clear. How can you keep the attention of your audience and communicate the most important points? Data-driven personalization. Understand what motivates your donor base and speak to that knowledge in your communications. If you don’t know as much about your audience, group your data into different collections, perhaps by your goals and storyboards. Then you’ll be able to easily speak to that narrative when you have the opportunity.
  5. Leading by example. The events of this year have forced all of us to examine this country’s history of racial injustice and to grapple with how we can play a part in solving this glaring systemic problem in our society. We have seen significant efforts from virtually every sector, as companies commit to be a part of the solution and tackle diversity, equity, and inclusion in a more deliberate and comprehensive way. The social sector has been a leader in this issue area for some time, but this year has shown a concerted effort unlike anything we have seen before as existing players take a larger role or offer a new approach to tackle these long-standing issues. We expect the social sector to build on the new momentum that has been created in 2020 in the form of a commitment to track diversity metrics with intentionality, practice transparency as it relates to sharing progress towards goals, and use information to collaborate and learn to drive positive change in this important issue area. 


Read more about each of these themes, with use cases from several of our impact partners, and let us know what you think. As you plan for 2021, is there anything that we missed? Which of these themes are you prioritizing in your 2021 strategic conversations? No matter the social sector issue that you are taking on, access to information will be critical for next year. 


Our vision of a data-driven ecosystem can’t be accomplished without all of you, and we want to express our excitement and appreciation for all that you do.



Additional posts in the 2020 series:

Creating a New Path and Learning as We Go

Using Data to Drive Collaboration

The Importance of Context

How Real-Time Access to Data is Transforming Communications 

Committing to DEI Metrics 

Post by Drew Payne
December 31, 2020