Undoubtedly, your foundation is equipped with the staff, tools, and expertise to make strategic grants, and maximize your impact. However, sometimes it really helps to bring in some outside assistance – especially when it comes to technology. Maybe you need help with selection and implementation, cloud computing and security, or CRM customization. Hiring a tech consultant allows you to get ahead of your tech to-do list and free up your time to work toward your mission.
Nonprofits are often forced into a “grantseekers dilemma.” For example, sometimes an organization applies for a grant that requires a certain kind of capacity, knowing they don’t have it, but hoping that with funding they can obtain it. It’s a lose-lose, for both funder and grantseeker, and reveals the critical importance of capacity building grants for effective nonprofits.
I am all for the most recent developments in philanthropy. For example, I like data: It helps us measure things like program quality and even overall impact. It helps the social sector do better work. And I think transparency is critical: Sharing what we learn from our successes and failures creates a much stronger sector. And no, I’m not just a fairweather fan of these trends, I have witnessed the long-term benefits of transparency and data-driven grantmaking. They’re here to stay – and for good reason.
One other development in philanthropy I love? Capacity-building grants. More and more foundations are offering this game-changing support, and I believe the social sector is stronger for it.
So, you’ve decided to start using grants management software or switch to a new grants management system at your foundation. Great! Your life is about to get a lot easier. But there’s a hurdle you need to clear before you take take the plunge: You need to convince your team that it’s the right move to make at the right time for your foundation. Pitching new technology can be daunting. We’ve been there. And making the case for implementing a new grants management system can be especially intimidating to those of us who don’t come from a tech background. That’s why we created this three-step plan to get your team to say “yes” to grants management software.
Cloud computing is everywhere, and it’s here to stay. “[Cloud] technology is no longer novel. In fact it has become the dominant paradigm in IT,” says Jim Lynch, of TechSoup. But despite its pervasive use, 39 percent of all foundations maintain their software and infrastructure in-house, according to a 2014 report co-written by the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) and the Grants Managers Network (GMN).
Philanthropy leaders are at their most strategic and are empowered to build capacity when they have a strong awareness of themselves, their partners, and the field. I'll explain:
Awareness is pretty much the name of our game at the Foundation Center. The organization collects, analyzes, and distributes data about philanthropy, providing various audiences – from foundations to budding nonprofits to established grants managers – a firm understanding of what’s going on in the social sector.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: data is here to stay. Whether you can’t wait to crunch numbers, or you avoid metrics like the plague, you can’t deny that data helps your nonprofit do better work.
Data measures progress: It tells you if you’re working in line with your mission; if you’re providing all you can for your beneficiaries; if you’re making the most of your grant dollars.
Data tells you what’s working and what’s not: Do the students in your afterschool programs learn anything? Are they more successful in the classroom?
Data helps you scale up (or down): It tells you whether you can offer more programs in a different city, or if you’re trying to tackle too much too soon.
Some nonprofits are already harnessing the power of data, and are pushing its boundaries everyday. Take the Crisis Text Line (CTL), a New York City-based nonprofit, founded in 2013 by Do Something’s CEO, Nancy Lublin, which provides counseling services via text to individuals in crisis.
On February 1, The Ford Foundation adopted an open licensing policy via Creative Commons so that it can share its grantees’ innovative work, from research reports and evaluation findings, to white papers and websites. Creative Commons is a nonprofit “that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” Many foundations produce knowledge in the form of publications and reports, but few take the time to think beyond their own use of that knowledge. By embracing open licensing, the Ford Foundation is encouraging others to build on its work, which has great potential to increase its impact and reach.