As the philanthropic sector continues to grow and evolve, there is an increasing need for accurate and reliable impact measurement. Impact measurement refers to the process of evaluating the effectiveness of philanthropic programs, initiatives and interventions. This helps organizations determine whether they are meeting their intended goals and delivering the intended benefits to their target beneficiaries.
In many of my recent conversations with investors, I have been struck by some consistent themes that continue to come up as it relates to our vision for more effective impact measurement and management. The good news is that there is clear consensus, and that most investors share the view that a more transparent and collaborative impact investing ecosystem is what is needed to move capital to high-impact opportunities to ultimately drive positive change. There is also consensus as it relates to the obstacles that we will face to achieve this vision, and as such, some question around how we can work together to make this vision a reality. Here are the opportunities and associated challenges that I continue to hear from investors when it comes to more effective and efficient impact measurement and management.
Investing in Your Monitoring and Evaluation System
Are you in search of procedures to aid in the organization of project components? Almost any logic model will show how you can present your project in terms of resources, activities, and short and long-term outcomes. These are essential tools that may aid in the clarification of goals and communicate the fundamentals of how an initiative operates to others.
In February I had the pleasure of chatting with my friend and colleague Jessica Mindnich on a webinar that focused on the importance of shifting the funder-grantee relationship toward one that encourages continuous knowledge sharing between parties. This is a topic close to my heart as well as Jessica’s, who is the Senior Director of Evaluation, Learning and Impact Stories at Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The truth is that trust-based relationships that prioritize collaboration and transparency are the only way we will be able to move the needle on some of the social issues that philanthropy, and the greater public, are looking to take on.
What is Social Impact and Why Does it Matter for Businesses?
We are at a crossroads in philanthropy, where access to data has increased in recent years but data capacity within impact organizations has not. As a result, only 50% of surveyed organizations are using the data available to them to inform their decision-making (Source). This fact presents a significant challenge to the ability of impact organizations to drive the level of positive change needed to tackle today’s complex issues.
Whenever we meet with potential clients across the social sector and the subject of data comes up, we are inevitably faced with one of two realities. The first, and most common, is that our partners have a lot of data but it lives in disparate systems making it very difficult for them to use this information to drive decision making. In this instance, we work with our partners to centralize their data into the UpMetrics platform so they can start to analyze and learn from this information. The other potential reality is that our partners have data gaps, and need help thinking through how to efficiently fill those gaps so they can effectively understand and report their impact. Luckily the UpMetrics platform can be helpful in this scenario as well. Here are three ways that the UpMetrics platform can help your organization address and fill data gaps.
Imagine you are doing a puzzle. You’re working on the top corner, perhaps a friend is piecing together the bottom border and their friend is tackling the always difficult middle area. While each person is responsible for their section, working independently, you’re all looking to achieve the same goal: completing the picture. Now, in my circle of friends it is hotly debated if you’re allowed to look at the box while assembling the puzzle, but we can all agree that it is infinitely easier to complete the puzzle when you can see that big picture. Not only do you then have a baseline of where you want to go, you can also check your progress along the way, making corrections if you’re trying to fit pieces in the wrong places.
The grantee reporting dilemma is not a new one - foundations rely heavily on grantees to understand whether their investments are making a positive impact in the areas that they wish to support. And yet many grantees do not have access to tools or resources in the area of data collection and analysis. This results in time and energy wasted on reporting requirements and process - time that could be spent focusing on the organization's mission and driving impact.