By: Ellen Bass, Director, Capacity Institute
Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston
How can our nonprofit report efficiently on all the data our funders want?
Our Board is demanding data on program effectiveness, so we can raise more funds! Where do we begin?
Whose job is it to gather, compile, and analyze the data? How do we make these decisions?
These common nonprofit pain points are symptoms of a deeper need to strengthen our performance management capacity. This refers to a set of practices that help nonprofits improve on their mission effectiveness. Before we can determine a reasonable data set to share with our Board or our funders, we first must come to agreement on a clear definition of organizational success.
We can understand a nonprofit’s mission by its clear response to these two questions:
1. Who do we exist for? Whom do we directly influence? This is its target population, which may be individuals, organizations, or a whole community. A strong nonprofit focuses on a specific target population and knows its demographic characteristics, the strengths and assets participants bring, and the specific challenges they face to reach their goals. This is the reason why they need the nonprofit’s help.
2. To what end do we engage them? To what result do we commit to them in our mission? For what are we accountable to the target population? Consider three different kinds of nonprofit mission accountabilities:
- Some nonprofits provide for basic needs, for example a food pantry or the Red Cross.
- Some nonprofits are accountable to deliver a specific quality service, for example universities, some health care organizations, some museums and arts organizations.
- Some nonprofits help people (or organizations) achieve outcomes. Outcomes are changes in people’s lives, starting with initial outcomes (new knowledge, increased skills, changed attitudes or values), leading to intermediate outcomes (reach program milestones, changes in behavior), leading to long-term outcomes (change in condition or status), not more than one or two years after program completion.
All three kinds of missions are uniquely valuable to deliver public benefit. All three kinds of missions can be measured, and the nonprofit’s operation managed to improve performance on that metric. The point is for nonprofits to be clear and focused on their “who” and “to what end.”
For outcomes-driven nonprofits, organizational performance is ultimately defined as success in achieving intermediate and long-term participant outcomes.
A nonprofit performance management system enables an agency to answer these questions:
- What results or outcomes are we helping our participants accomplish?
- How well are we doing?
- With whom must we partner?
- How can we improve?
The goal of data analysis is to answer the question, How many of our target population (#1 below) reach long-term outcomes (#5 below)? And for the ones who did not reach the desired destination, Where did we lose them? How can we do better next time? Here are the essential data categories human services nonprofits can consider when designing their performance management systems:
Once a nonprofit collects these key data sets, the next step is to analyze the data to learn how to strengthen the program to increase results. The organization can use this data to drive decision making — about program improvement, about human resource management, about raising and allocating resources, and about strategic partnerships. This is an all-hands-on-deck, relentless pursuit of improving participant outcomes, which requires that a nonprofit make changes in the way it manages its operations. For many nonprofits, this shift represents significant culture change, requiring a 3 to 10 year transition. For this reason, we recommend engaging outside assistance to help your agency navigate building and implementing your performance management system.
How can a nonprofit prepare to strengthen these capacities? Scores of Boston nonprofits have built their performance management systems by following this road map of organizational commitments:
- Align with effective practice in the field
- Clarify mission and theory of change, including target population and outcome sequence
- Map logical program influence on outcomes, including necessary dosage and duration of activities
- Agree on specific outcome indicators for the target population
- Agree on accurate data sources and collection practices
- Build out database to hold, compile, and report on key data
- Align program performance with human resource management
- Align program performance with resource development functions
- Align program performance with strategic partnerships
These practices help nonprofits prepare to gather and analyze data to drive decision making for mission improvement.
The payoff for this investment is increased participant outcomes and mission effectiveness. The process leverages every other dollar and every other hour invested into your organization. Leap of Reason, by Mario Morino, provides a compelling case for the value of nonprofit performance management systems.
The Capacity Institute helps Boston area nonprofits build 17 performance management practices over two years. For more information, visit http://www.bmaboston.org/capacity-institute and contact Ellen Bass. Ellen is a member of the Leap Ambassadors, a national community of nonprofit thought leaders and practitioners who promote high performance in the nonprofit sector. The Capacity Institute’s practices are aligned with the Performance Imperative, the Leap Ambassadors’ seven practices of highly effective organizations.
To contact Ellen, please email email@example.com.
Think of the Uber concept – except one can request the help of someone to save their life!
GoodSAM (SAM standing for Smartphone Activated Medics) is the first known emergency healthcare app to embrace a secure live video streaming function. GoodSAM allows individuals in need, or the “alerter,” to call for emergency services while simultaneously connecting to nearby medically qualified personnel, or the “responder.” Once the alerter dials for help (like you would request for an Uber ride), it connects them to the phone of the responder and sends GPS signals. The responder, who can be a certified care provider and/or a registered first responder, is first notified of the alerter and his or her medical emergency, and through an encrypted live-stream video, which also protects confidentiality, they are then able to assess the patient’s condition and the severity of their injury. This helps them gauge the appropriate resources and the urgency of care, all while making their way to the scene.
Live streaming has been revealed to increase reaction rate, which is critical to saving people especially in life-threatening emergencies. According to doctors, an individual’s response time improves when they know what is happening at the scene. Likewise, it also saves time when the responder knows what is happening prior to arriving at the scene.
This app initially launched in the UK and has spun out to several other countries, including the United States. Their responder network is comprised of volunteer doctors, nurses, paramedics and first aiders. Currently, GOODSAM is making efforts to bring more emergency personal onboard in order to build their network of community lifesavers. There are separate apps for alerters and for responders; both are accessible on any smartphone that uses iOS, Android or Windows.
Have you heard of any news or feedback about this app? Let us know!
By Jennifer Phan
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the multinational technology company, is a global grant-maker favoring organizations that address the world’s most pressing development challenges.
Throughout 2016, Google has donated more than $1 billion in tech products and 200,000 volunteer hours to communities in need. More importantly, it has donated $100 million to charities.
For this year’s holiday, they donated $30 million to non-profits for the supply of any tech and related services including hardware, software, training, IT maintenance and repair services. $5 million was allocated to fund projects on a site called DonorsChoose.org, where educators seek out to receive support and funds to purchase classroom materials. The remainder of the funding went to charities across the world including: Adobe Services, Defy Ventures, Libraries Without Borders, NetHope, Pratham Education Foundation, and UNETE.
Rumors indicated that Google’s intent was to benefit itself by donating to charities that would specifically purchase Google products. According to techcrunch.com, this allegation was deemed false; prior to the charitable donations, they did not consider the technology needs of any of their non-profit recipients.
Another rumor found to be true was that the donations were made on behalf of their employees as the donated money was originally reserved for employees’ Christmas gifts. In return, Google gave their employees the privilege of selecting causes and grant amounts during its annual “Giving Week.” According to a Google statement, one-third of the company pledged and among those employees, $24 million in employee matching funds were given to 650 various charities that support a diverse range of causes.
Based on the same statement, Google claimed that their employees chose non-profits that aim to support: “the victims and survivors of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, to helping vulnerable women in Mexico through VIFAC, to fighting hunger and malnutrition with Akshaya Patra in India. Other giving trends this year included causes like refugee assistance and transgender rights, and support for civil liberties and women’s health organizations.”
Information cited by TechCrunch.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing faster than you can imagine. It is projected that there will be 24 billion IoT devices by 2020. IoT devices are also known as “connected devices” and “smart devices”. Some examples of IoT devices that you already use are smart phones, smart watches, printers, portable speakers, thermostats, cars, and vending machines. The Internet of Things refers to the network of physical objects that have an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other internet-enabled devices and systems.
As the IoT evolves, there will be smarter ways to use them for your organization. For nonprofits especially, the need to find new ways to get to know your donors and beneficiaries are important to solve your mission. This can range from obtaining data to see the frequency and amount people donate, to using the IoT to show people how important your cause is. Imagine if you saw that the air quality for the day was poor on your weather app and there was a button that let you donate to a climate change awareness organization.
However, the benefits of increasing productivity and increased data collection come with a cost. Security is the largest concern and it will be important to engage in best practices for data security. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security published best practices to help businesses work through key IoT security issues:
- When choosing hardware or software for your organization, make sure it includes the latest operating system and security features. Be diligent about patching, security updates, and vulnerability management strategies. Cyber crime is becoming more and more common, and it is important to have a plan in place if something was to ever occur.
- Consider conducting a risk assessment that identifies whether vulnerabilities exist in software and hardware components. Performing a strategic network assessment can be crucial to identifying these risks.
- Enforce policies and procedures among all employees for use of personal computers and smartphones that are used for work. Inform employees of key email security tips to keep everyone’s data safe.
There will be no limit to the usefulness of the IoT going forward. It will be especially important to stay informed and practice data security measures. We’d like to know if and how the IoT of things has helped you so far.
Today, the world comes together to celebrate #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that unites thousands of organizations around the world to give back. Giving is an integral part of Tech Networks of Boston – on September 5, 2016 we joined Pledge 1%, a global movement that is making giving a part of the DNA of companies of all sizes, helping them to give 1% of product, time, proceeds, or equity, to charities of their choosing. It was only 2 years ago (on #GivingTuesday 2014) that Pledge 1% was founded, and already 1,300+ companies in 38 countries have joined the movement.
As we celebrate #GivingTuesday and the second anniversary of Pledge 1% today, I’d like to give a few examples of how Tech Networks of Boston participates to show others how easy it is to give back.
– TNB supports the Climate Action Business Association which helps small business owners fight climate change by improving the sustainability of their businesses, engaging the community and by advocating for immediate government action to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and to plan to adapt to the changes we can’t prevent.
– We give back to our nonprofit clients by offering donations to a specified nonprofit when our clients fill out a service completion survey.
– We participate in company matching for donations towards relief funds. Earlier this year, TNB matched employee donations towards relief funds for Nepal’s earthquake disaster.
– TNB manages free bi-weekly Roundtable Events, a free Boston Charity Events posting website and newsletter.
We are proud to be Pledge 1% members and of the impact our giving program has had on the communities we support and on our company culture. If you haven’t taken the pledge, I encourage you to do so at pledge1percent.org. #GivingTuesday is a day all about giving back. Give today and give every day by taking the pledge and making giving part of your business model.
Tech Networks of Boston serves nonprofits because we believe in the good that you do. We share your dreams of ending poverty and homelessness, educating our children, supporting arts and cultures, protecting the civil rights of all people, and creating healthy, sustainable communities, here in Boston and around the world.
Over the last 21 years, Tech Networks has consciously developed a business model to help you reach your goals. We have addressed the shortage of skilled IT professionals who are dedicated to serving the nonprofit sector in innovative ways, such as sharing skilled technology professionals between organizations, developing apprenticeship programs for disadvantaged youth, and bringing nonprofit IT and Data professionals together through our TNB Nonprofit Technology Roundtables.
We also believe in the power of business to change the world. Our many wonderful environmental projects include everything from building the first EcoPC on the East Coast to saving orangutans in Borneo. In 2012, Tech Networks founded the Climate Action Business Association, which now has seven employees and over 100 members.
The recent election has impacted Americans in a big way – our nation will undergo changes and there is an evident need for unity and support among us all. During this time, we are more committed than ever to help you become stronger, more resilient, and able to serve more people as the need arises. If you have been to a TNB Roundtable, you know that we are working on many more innovative ways to help you share resources and to build capacity for the sector.
If you believe, as we do, in the power of information technology to help nonprofit organizations Serve, Scale and Innovate, then we have a request for you. Visit our website and contact us if you’d like to discuss technology support for your organization.
Tech Networks of Boston
Last month, WorldBoston reached out to Tech Networks to hear how we work with Massachusetts Nonprofit Network to enable mission-based organizations to meet their mission via collaboration between leadership and technology. WorldBoston, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, was host to a delegation of NGO management professionals from across the Middle East and North Africa focused on entrepreneurship, and wanted some fresh insights from companies operating in the Boston nonprofit sector as part of their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
WorldBoston’s mission is to foster engagement in international affairs and cooperation with peoples of all nations. By means of their nationally-recognized global education and citizen diplomacy programs and networking and community events, they provide people from all over the world – and people in Boston – hundreds of opportunities for learning and connection.
On September 28, Ken Boyle of Tech Networks presented to the delegates as part a week-long series of meetings. His presentation focused on innovative technology, collaboration, and management strategies used by nonprofits in Greater Boston. Ken discussed how Tech Networks’ proactive approach to IT service delivery avoids “reinventing the wheel” and is based off of our experiences helping more than 60 small to medium sized nonprofits in the Boston area. In the past 20 years, we’ve formed great relationships with our vendors to create technology purchasing programs that give nonprofits the most cost savings. Ken stressed how strategic technology advice – whether it be a standalone assessment report, or integration into managed service plans – was a key component in successful strategic technology decision making for nonprofits.
The important themes emerging for nonprofit technology include:
- The need to move to the cloud
- Enabling a mobile workforce
- Data security as security threats and cybercrime continue to evolve
- Outcomes measurement and reporting – “data storytelling” to demonstrate program effectiveness to funders
To see the other emerging IT trends among nonprofits, view Tech Networks of Boston’s 2016 Nonprofit IT Snapshot on our website.
The participating delegates included:
Ms. Fatima ALJAR, Head, Youth Programs, Al Mabarrah Al Khalifia Foundation, Bahrain
Ms. Safaa Hassan ALY, Executive Director, CEDAW Center for Democracy and Human Rights
Mr. Michel Fayez Hakeem BOKTOR, Director, The Association for the Protection of the Environment, Egypt
Mr. Ahmed Shebl Abdelbary SHEBL, Civic Education and Human Rights Trainer, El Gora Association, North Sinai
Ms. Rawan BISHARAT, Co-Director, Sadaka-Reut Arab-Jewish Youth Partnership, Israel
Ms. Asmaa HASAN, General Coordinator and Treasurer, Kuwaiti Peace Movement, Kuwait
Ms. Hanan Saad ALJUMAIAH, Head, NGO Department, Ministry of Social Affairs, Saudi Arabia
Mr. Mazen Ali I SULIMAN, Manager, Faisal Zahid Sporting Park, Saudi Arabia
Mr. Fourati FAKHRI, President and Founder, Sfax El Mezyena, Tunisia
It is widely recognized that the health and human services industry currently faces challenges. Needs are increasing, budgets are tight, and organizations are being pushed to make sure their information is secure. While there is no simple solution for health and human services agencies seeking to maximize their ability to respond to surges in need, some emerging tools, services, and applications can improve efficiency and capacity.
Technology, for one, represents a great opportunity. There are many ways technology can help health and human service providers meet key needs, lower costs and improve quality of care. Essentially, technology innovation can be a crucial component of any effort to address needs and better serve individuals and families.
In health and human services, IT has been a significant capital investment. Agencies and providers have purchased and installed hardware as well as built, run and maintained systems, and also staffed and trained IT professionals. The good news today is that infrastructure, software, platforms and business processes can be bought as services without incurring large capital commitments. This, in turn, encourages experimentation with various IT providers at low cost and low risk, leading to innovative ways of using technology to deliver healthcare and human services.
“The agencies know they must serve increasingly connected customers who expect immediate, convenient access. They recognize that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provided additional resources that, if deployed strategically, can enhance modernization. They know too that they must drive coordination and collaboration to truly integrate human services delivery.” – GovTech.com
Data-Smart City Solutions by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School spoke to over 100 experts and stakeholders involved in human services and technology. They discovered that five common benefits resulted from technology innovation: Automation, Integration, Empowerment, Analysis, and Accountability.
- Automation: Technology presents the opportunity for program administrators to remove inefficiencies in workflow as well as the opportunity to automate routine practices.
- Integration: Technology creates a more effective flow of information among and between various programs and offices. Tools that facilitate integration provide a holistic, cross-program view of client information.
- Empowerment: Technology can directly empower individual clients as well as families by allowing them to manage benefits and services according to their own schedules and from the privacy of their own homes.
- Analysis: Technology can help staff understand their clients at both the individual and population levels and allows them to track and evaluate program performance, uncover long-term trends and develop improvements.
- Accountability: Technology allows for better communication of important information to residents and administrators alike, enhancing the scrutiny and decision-making of administrators, elected officials, and the general public.
Another major concern among health and human service providers is the privacy of information flowing from one outlet to another. They too are looking to technology to transform their work practices. Health information technology advances the exchange of health information in an electronic environment, and helps ensures the privacy and security of electronic health information. The widespread use of health IT will improve the quality of health care, prevent medical errors, reduce health care costs, increase administrative efficiencies, decrease paperwork, and expand access to affordable health care. Health IT not only has the potential to improve the health of individuals and the performance of providers, it also has the power to boost engagement of patients in their own health care. Sometimes, taking advantage of a technology consultant can give you a fresh outlook on solutions for your organization and save you valuable time and money when it comes to research.
Are you happy with the way your organization is currently utilizing technology? See our list of 70+ free and low cost tools that could help your health and human service organization to embrace innovation.
Tuan Pham is not a person who seeks the limelight. In both his professional and volunteer life, he has preferred to work behind the scenes. In 2016, Tuan has finally received recognition for his years of service to the nonprofit community.
In July, Tuan officially became the CEO of Tech Networks, after nine months of interim service in this role. Just two months later, Tuan received word that he is one of the 40 young professionals to be honored by the Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. This list is comprised of young professionals who are making a significant, positive impact on Massachusetts as a result of their professional and community contributions.
Tuan has been the consummate team player at Tech Networks. Over the last eight years he has contributed his technology expertise in almost every area of the organization from marketing to strategic solutions. Tuan’s ability to take on new challenges will serve him well as Tech Networks continues to evolve at the speed of technology.
Tuan believes in the importance of continued education to stay abreast with technology and provide educated recommendations to the Boston nonprofit community. He has been a great example to his peers, achieving an extensive list of certifications and in-depth knowledge of MS cloud solutions, including a spot on Microsoft’s SMB Partner Advisory Council.
Tuan’s longstanding commitment to volunteerism has provided another venue for his quiet leadership. At Anime Boston, Tuan played an integral role in growing the organization’s annual conference into the 5th largest volunteer-run Japanese anime pop culture con in the United States.
All of us at Tech Networks are extremely glad that Tuan’s contributions have been recognized by the Boston Business Journal. We hope that you will join with us in celebrating his achievement.
By Jennifer Phan
Last month, we discussed how to properly request for donations through social media. On a larger scale, the way you treat your donors at any channel correlates to the amount they are willing to contribute to your organization. Do you feel that you have been providing your donors with the friendliest experience?
The donor continuum is defined as the journey nonprofit organizations send their supporters through, beginning from the first inquiry to when they become a committed donor or even when they entrust a bequest to the organization. Seeing that a plethora of supporters fall off the continuum, we will discuss better ways to preserve their presence.
How exactly do you respond to their inquiries, especially when they request for specific information? We hope that you don’t direct them to something you assume they had already seen or that you already sent out by saying, “you can find that on our website, or that information is found in the newsletter we sent out last month.” Such words sound as if you’re depreciating them. It makes them feel ashamed, as if they should have already known that. You also shouldn’t make them go the extra mile while you can so easily access the information, and quickly send over what they are looking for. Meet them where they are instead of making them come to you.
Chances are, people are not going to make the effort to come to you when it involves going out of their way. As you have the lower hand in these circumstances, it should be your obligation to provide them with care, consideration and convenience – gently show them the way along your donor continuum.
First and foremost, show your supporters their contribution and involvement is valuable. Show them their support is always much appreciated. Often times, you may not realize the little effort you put into making your supporters feel welcomed and respected. It goes beyond sending them a thank you; it’s about making them feel thanked.
Second, effectively deliver information to those whose interests your organization peaks. Show them that you would go the extra mile for them just as they would go the extra mile to make a donation. You can start with a welcome series, “a series of emails automatically sent to new subscribers, donors, ect. over the course of time that educations them about your organization and encourages them to become more engaged and connected.”
Having a welcome series is the safest route to reach new members. It doesn’t make you appear too direct, and allows you the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to new subscribers and ease them into the regular flow of things. If you simply throw brand new subscribers into your regular email flow, they will feel perplexed. The messages you’re sending in your main marketing emails will not make sense to them. As an alternative, you should walk with them, step by step – convey your story, discuss the impacts you have made, tell them of exclusive perks for donors/members, and include a calendar year of events they can look forward to – all while establishing a warm connection. More than likely, you will give your subscribers a wowing first impression.
According to Emma, “the average open rate for a welcome email series is 50%, making them 86% more effective than email newsletters. And get this: subscribers who receive a welcome email show 33% more long-term engagement than those who aren’t welcomed appropriately.”
If you don’t have a welcome series, we recommend you craft and coordinate one now so that you don’t miss out a key engagement opportunity. Read Emma Email Marketing’s article to gain a better understanding of the benefits of an email welcome series as well as a fascinating step by step guide!
Last by not least, we hope you have been taking time to hear out your members and supporters. If you realize you haven’t, you may want to act now and start taking their comments and complaints seriously.
“Research firm TARP has found that for every person who complains, there are 26 who do not. That means if 10 individuals complain, another 260 may have quietly dumped you, never to call again.”
Listening intently and responding carefully to your donors and potential donors will help improve mutual understanding and trust. Even if you can’t particularly deliver them what they want, by offering an alternate solution, you build a strong relationship along with improved communication. Remember to act on the solution with a sense of urgency. They might respond more positively to your focus on helping them immediately versus on the solution itself. Asking them for their feedback on how you can improve the way you serve them is also key. Keep up with the pace of constant feedback from your respondents and act accordingly. It’d be a waste if you didn’t consider their suggestions. After all, they are your most precious assets – your donors and supporters.
These listed actions do take up some time, but if you properly show gratitude, provide them with necessary information, and give them all ears, there is no doubt they will be much happier. And since you give them no valid reason to steer away, the chances that they will continue to support you are going to be high.
Always keep in mind that the way you treat your donors greatly affects their length of stay on the donor continuum. Let this be the drive of your endeavors.