That title might seem surprising coming from a grants management software company, but it’s a reality we face every day with our clients. There is no shortcut to achieving impact with your philanthropy programs. Simply buying a grants system to measure outcomes won’t get you to greater insight or greater impact. You need a plan and that’s not something you generally look to your software vendor to provide. But it turns out that we’re pretty good sidekicks when it comes to getting that all-important plan in place.
Grants management best practices
Our approach is to partner with you to help build and execute your plan. We start by asking how we can better understand your needs and help meet your corporate philanthropy goals. What is the impact you’re looking to achieve? What outcomes will indicate you’re achieving that impact? How do we measure those outcomes? And so on. By putting effort into this type of planning process upfront before we implement your system, we’ll get you on the path to greater impact. Otherwise, without laying that foundation, you’re likely to end up with software that is, at the least, measuring the wrong thing, or at worst, misleading you strategically.
Ryan Scott, CEO of Causecast, said it well in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post. “Reliable impact measurement has been the holy grail of CSR, and when it comes to employee volunteer and giving programs, quantifying impact can be especially difficult and expensive. Everyone talks about social impact but very few actually do the work to measure it, and thus most program leaders can only speculate about the impact of their efforts.”
Set a high bar for your grants management process
At typical grant management software companies, the focus is on improving efficiency. How can we make it faster and better? We believe this approach is too narrow. Instead, we strive to make it more effective. We work to understand the grants management process from your perspective, instead of just lobbing some tools in your direction and wishing you good luck. We partner with clients to really understand your goals and your processes and we stick with you to make sure your philanthropy program keeps working for years to come.
Impact reporting isn’t the end goal, it’s a continuous cycle.
Once a client’s grants system is up and running, it's just the beginning. As you reach greater impact you will undoubtedly uncover new ideas about how you can push your program even further. And those new ideas will likely require changes to the program and prompt you to revisit how you’re measuring outcomes. That’s a good thing! Learning as we go and incorporating new ideas and thinking is key to ensuring your program delivers the outcomes you’re expecting.
A partnership approach is integral to our beliefs and we find that most of our clients share that approach when it comes to working with their community partners – the non-profits and charitable groups they support. It’s critical to make it as simple as possible for your partners to provide you with impact tracking data so you know where and how you’re moving the needle.
In a blog post, Stewart Rassier, Director of Executive Education for the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship stated, “With strong leadership, a shared vision, and collective accountability, partnerships have the potential to be a “win-win”, with both companies and nonprofits achieving their goals of creating sustainable and high-impact programs to improve conditions in society and maximize business performance.“
We hear from many of our clients that one of the primary benefits of having an efficient online grants management system is that it frees up time for them to spend connecting with their community partners to ensure those organizations have the support they need to accomplish their goals and deliver impact.
Collaborate with partners to measure impact
One recommendation we often make is to establish impact goals with each grantee up front and track progree against those goals midway through the grant cycle. Versaic custom-configures each solution to your exact requirements, which allows you and your partners to accurately and easily set goals, collect data, and measure results.
When a progress report is submitted, the system alerts the primary user(s) and prompts them to complete a quick progress assessment online. They can use this information to evaluate their grant portfolio more effectively and incorporate what they've learned into their CSR strategy and subsequent funding decisions for the following year. Properly incorporated, this approach has helped our clients grow and report on their impact and their programs.
According to Barb Johnson, Manager of Community Relations at Alaska Airlines, “Versaic experts took the lead in designing and implementing our program, resulting in huge time savings for us. They continue to work with us to constantly optimize and improve our program.”
I welcome your input and questions and am happy to walk you through how Versaic can help you increase your impact. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BlackRock CEO calls for corporations to commit to social good.
This blog is reposted with permission from Mark W. Shamley, President & CEO, ACCP. We appreciate Mark's take on the trends to watch as 2018 gets underway.