One of the things I love most about UpMetrics is that our values are not just words on a website – they actively guide our decision-making and our partnerships with other impact organizations.
Two of those values – Reflect & Improve and Client Focused – are top of mind as we pilot, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, two Impact Data Fellows to strengthen the data collection and analysis capabilities of a cohort of nonprofit organizations.
Our work with the Kauffman Foundation has grown from a direct model of supporting the foundation’s own impact measurement and storytelling, to also include a cohort model of empowering a group of KC-based grantees with the UpMetrics impact analytics platform and professional services.
The progress and learnings from the grantee cohort’s first year sparked the question: How could we support these nonprofit organizations even more effectively? While we know these community-based organizations are doing incredibly important work, we also know they face substantial challenges.
For example, there is limited staff time to collect data, let alone connect siloed data or analyze the data to learn from it. The time and expertise required to implement new tools can be a barrier even when organizations understand the benefits that technology can provide. This goes beyond operations to behavior change: data-driven practices are only sustainable if they are embedded in a strong culture.
Out of these conversations emerged the Impact Data Fellowship with three key elements that blend our Reflect & Improve and Client Focused values. We will not effectively address the social sector’s ills with technology alone because the problems are not only about data. Rather, sustainable improvements will come from a combination of tech and team in the social sector.
First, each Fellow will work directly with a cohort of grantees over a two-year period to help them become more data-driven, using the UpMetrics platform. When we shared news about the Impact Data Fellows with Kauffman’s Kansas-City-based grantee cohort, the organizations were thrilled because they felt seen. The model aims to both alleviate what is not working well and double-down on what is working well.
To alleviate grantee pain points, Fellows will add needed bandwidth and data expertise to grantees’ teams. The Fellows will meet regularly with each grantee to provide ongoing guidance and execution to help grantees establish a viable data infrastructure for collecting, analyzing, and sharing both quantitative and qualitative data.
To build on grantee strengths, the flexibility of the UpMetrics platform and coaching from the Fellows will allow the grantees to set their own goals and track the metrics that matter most to their missions. Common data points can be rolled up across organizations focused on similar impact themes or operating in the same neighborhoods, in parallel with unique data points per grantee.
Second, the Fellows will be conduits for sharing best practices and fostering new relationships. People risk being vulnerable – and open themselves up to learn and grow – only where there is a foundation of trust. While senior nonprofit leaders and data coordinators don’t always have peers in their own organization, participating in a cohort with other professionals in similar roles can make a big difference.
The goal is not only to drive collaboration among grantees, but to also help UpMetrics and the Kauffman Foundation continue to improve ourselves. The Fellows will be responsible for providing structured feedback on ways that UpMetrics and the Kauffman Foundation can more effectively deliver on grantee priorities. These observations and iterations will then inform a playbook for future place-based capacity supports for cohorts of nonprofit organizations.
Third, and perhaps most exciting, the Fellowship is intentionally place-based. As lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson notes, “We cannot create justice without getting close to places where injustices prevail. We have to get proximate.” The power of being in place together – that proximity – can spark more robust relationships, more adaptable responses, and more enduring impact.
I can say from personal experience that working intimately with community leaders to help them achieve their own definitions of success is truly an invaluable education. At the Clinton Global Initiative, I got to see members of my early childhood education working group like Kyle Zimmer make an art of listening and responding to the needs of kids living in poverty and the caregivers around them. At Right To Play USA, I took the NYC subway everywhere from the South Bronx to Eastern Brooklyn as part of my 1:1 coaching and in-person workshops for local early childhood leaders and their teams to improve program quality.
I believe the Impact Data Fellowship is a special opportunity for enthusiastic self-starters who want to accelerate their careers by developing both their technical and interpersonal skills while also gaining significant exposure to a variety of nonprofits, foundations, and small businesses.
Please help the UpMetrics team find our next two amazing teammates and advance our vision to build a data-driven ecosystem that drives resources to impact – apply here and/or spread the word. Thank you!