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How Do You Measure the Impact of Good? Measuring Nonprofit Outcomes

By | Cloud, Data, Nonprofit | No Comments

How do you measure the impact of a nonprofit organization? Many try to measure impact through output metrics: number of people helped, animals saved, members served. But what if we could measure not just how many but how much – as in, how much good was done?

Two organizations, GuideStar and Impact Genome Project, are attempting to do both.

GuideStar recently launched GuideStar Platinum, a platform through which nonprofits can report both outcomes and impact. About 20 percent of the more than 12,000 metrics shared on the GuideStar platform represent impact-based outcomes. The rest measured output.

Impact Genome Project is an initiative curated by Mission Measurement. It aggregates more than 10,000 pieces of research, seeking to identify patterns of what works and by extension, what doesn’t work. This analysis can help nonprofits replicate what works by sharing the outcomes.

Why Bother with Data?

The question many nonprofit managers ask is, “Why bother with data?” Outcomes data has long been the standard method of reporting for many nonprofits. It’s easy to see why. Charting how many members you’ve signed up this year is easier than ascertaining the impact that your programs have made on those members, for example.

Data is now used throughout many industries to quantify success. In medicine, for example, hospitals rely on both outcome data (the number of patients who attend a diabetic symposium or nutrition class) but on impact data (changes in community data such as the number of diabetics diagnosed in a year). Together, these two metrics build a powerful story that demonstrates not just the effort of the nonprofit, but also the effect that effort has on the community.

Donors Want Data

Donors want to see data on how well nonprofits are utilizing their funds, and that’s where the GuideStar program comes into play. GuideStar is well-known in the nonprofit world as a good place for potential donors to research nonprofits.

GuideStar data enables donors to:

  • Research potential nonprofits
  • Read their financial reports
  • Understand how well their money is spent to support and sustain the nonprofit mission
  • Review leaders, salaries, money spent on overhead and more
  • Read answers from the nonprofit on specific initiatives
  • Contact the organization

Nonprofits that provide quantitative as well as qualitative answers to these questions to groups like GuideStar provide transparency to their potential donors. Donors look for metrics they can understand before giving money. They want to see not just quantity, but quality.

Success is measured through many metrics. Donors want to know that their money successfully solves the problems the nonprofit purports to solve through their program. If they are donating money to a bird sanctuary, they want to know not just how many birds were rescued, but overall, what is the impact on the sanctuary, the environment, and the local wildlife.

Data Is the Future of Nonprofits

Although you probably want to roll up your sleeves and get to work helping the audience for your program, there is a need for data, and that need will continue to grow in the future. As donors become pickier about the causes they support, the demand for facts to base nonprofit assertions will grow.

Start tracking the outcomes of your programs now and discuss ways by which you can measure the impact of your programs. You may need time to ramp up your databases, software, or other tools to help you track, measure and report outcomes.

It’s a smart idea to sign up for programs such as GuideStar or the Impact Genome Project now so that you are fully prepared for future donors who wish to investigate your organization’s credentials. The sooner you can provide data, the more attractive you will make your organization to potential donors.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting offers a bridge to solutions that work for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Finding Technology Resources for Your Nonprofit Organization

By | Cloud, Data, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

It would be nice to have a fairy godmother who could wave her magic wand and provide your nonprofit with all the technology bells, whistles, sparkles and licenses it needs to be up-to-date.
The reality is, however, that each nonprofit must find a way to find its tech upgrades on its own. That comes with challenges.

Discover the top ten reasons why nonprofits need true fund accounting instead of a commercial accounting system. Download our whitepaper now.

There are solutions for nonprofit organizations who need to update their technology, but no solution is a perfect fit for every organization. You’ll need to examine the solutions, weigh the pros and cons, and come up with the technology plan that’s right for your group.

Consider All Costs

“Technology” is an umbrella term that encompasses hardware, software, and connectivity. It may also include various devices used by your employees such as laptops, cell phones, tablets and more.

Before looking for technology resources, develop a list that includes all of your organization’s technology needs. Start by listing the employees, their jobs, and the resources each person needs to successfully complete their job.

Costs may include:

  • Laptops
  • Desktop units
  • Monitors
  • Mouse and keyboard
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Business productivity software such as spreadsheets, word processing, presentation software, etc.
  • Cloud storage or networking
  • Graphic design software
  • Human resources software
  • CRM or donor relationship management software
  • Grant tracking software
  • Accounting and financial software
  • Modem or internet connectivity
  • Copiers, scanners, fax machines, printers, etc.

Some of these items may be available for little or no cost. Google Documents, for example, provides cloud-based word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software that may be fine for your basic business needs. Small or startup nonprofits have different needs than a 100-person nonprofit operating in several states or countries.

Keep in mind that licenses for software may be based on how many users are on the system, so as your nonprofit grows, you may need to add extra licenses. You should include these costs into your estimates.

Office equipment today combines printing, scanners, fax machines and copiers all in one small unit. Such a unit may suffice for your office needs in the short-term and can be purchased new for a modest fee.

Nearly New or Brand New?

Nonprofits may find that they can benefit from local corporations who wish to donate their computer equipment to the organization. Before accepting such equipment, ascertain whether the donated equipment is compatible with licenses and software that you currently own. Otherwise, you may spend considerable time and effort finding ways to adapt software to equipment.

Before accepting used equipment, feel free to stipulate to the company donating it that you’d like to look at it first. You don’t want a truck pulling up at your doorstep filled with circa 1990 monitors; they’re only good for doorstops at this point in time. Examine the equipment and if it doesn’t meet your needs, pass on it.

New equipment can be purchased at a discount online. TechSoup offers discounted equipment and  many bargains . Even traditional retailers and office supply stores provide coupons, discounts and sales. End of year and back to school times are great opportunities to take advantage of these sales.

Big Projects? Think Sponsorships

 Lastly, consider asking your best donors to sponsor large-scale tech projects. Consider a capital campaign with specific donation amounts suggested in the campaign and linking those amounts to what the donation will purchase.

“Your donation of $100 will buy a new copier for our office” ,for example, allows the potential donor to visualize how they help your organization. This is a time-tested way of encouraging donations for specific campaigns.

Nonprofits need technology. Paying for it or finding the funds for it may be challenging, but there are many creative ways to help you harness the power of technology for your benefitwith a little thought, care and planning,

Welter Consulting, Your Bridge to Solutions

Navigating the many options available to you for technology resources can be tricky. There’s always something else tugging at you for attention. Where do you start? How do you decide?
Welter Consulting offers a bridge to solutions that work for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

3 Steps to Moving Nonprofit Financial Systems to the Cloud

By | Accounting, Cloud, Data, E-Learning, Nonprofit | No Comments

According to a recent story from Forbes, since 2009 spending for cloud computing was reported to grow 4.5 times the rate of IT spending, and with good reason. What does “moving to the cloud” really mean? In short, the cloud shifts hosted data from on-premise servers to remote servers hosted on the internet. Many nonprofit organizations have made the switch to the cloud, and by doing so they transformed the way they budget, prioritize, and store data.

Oftentimes, nonprofit executives lack the time to consider the cost and benefits of migrating their financial systems to the cloud. A lot of nonprofits are just stretched too thin to give migration a good, solid look. A recent study by NTEN supported a 25 percent growth year after year for nonprofits’ cloud implementation.

To get a handle on the benefits – and decide if it’s a right move for you – we’ve broken down the process of moving to the cloud into three steps:

  1. Identify and weigh the benefits
  2. Recognize potential risks
  3. Establish a strategy

 Benefits of the cloud

 There are many benefits to moving to the cloud including:

  • Accessing data anywhere and at any time
  • Specialized IT experts with cloud service providers, so your team can focus more time on your mission
  • Best-in-class security tools to protect you and your donors

And that’s just the start! Many organizations have reported spending up to 80 percent of an IT budget on maintaining legacy software. With a cloud migration you can increase performance and extend the life of the system by receiving the most up-to-date software. Maintenance will also take less effort because updates are automatic, and organizations always have the most up-to-date version.

Depending on the needs of a nonprofit, the benefits can vary in priority and weight. As a starting point, nonprofit accounting professionals and executives alike need to rate and prioritize the benefits relative to the needs of the nonprofit.

Recognize risks

It’s crucial to be well-informed about the risks of operating in the cloud. Some items to consider:

  • Complexity and duration of the migration
  • Training staff – It is necessary to have a good training plan in place to avoid the frustration that can take place with a new system.
  • Does the cloud provider or your fund accounting consulting offer long-term support? Will you be able to partner with them to help your staff in times of need?

Strategy for moving to the cloud

There is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy with cloud computing migrations. Be sure you can build a road-map that meets the needs and priorities of your nonprofit, including:

  • Cost analysis between the on-premises and cloud-hosted software
  • A plan regarding how the migration will support the bottom line and mission of your organization
  • Research and comparing services from at least three cloud providers

Migrations to the cloud can be overwhelming for many of today’s nonprofit professionals. By breaking down the process into three steps, a plan can be effectively crafted and shared with stakeholders across the organization.

Ready to take the next step? Download our whitepaper that allows you to dig deeper into adopting cloud computing, benefits of migrating, and tips on the best way to research and plan for a move to the cloud. Or contact us online today to set up your free cloud migration consultation.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.