Nonprofits Are Taking A Hit Now. Here’s How CEOs Can Help
A global pandemic isn’t exactly the best time for nonprofits to fundraise. And yet, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to take its toll on communities around the world, those organizations play a critical role in the relief efforts today and going forward as people navigate their way through the fallout.
UpMetrics, which provides data tools and services for the social sector, is stepping up to support these essential organizations.
“With social distancing measures in-place, many of the traditional channels for nonprofits have gone away,” says Roslyn Payne, chair of the board of directors of UpMetrics. “They can’t have events. They can’t afford mailings. How do they get their message out, keep their team together and still build capacity to service the needs within the community, both short and long term?
The tough reality is that many nonprofits only have several months of operating capital on-hand. So, to help nonprofits tell compelling stories that engage their stakeholders and ultimately increase fundraising, UpMetrics made its platform free to all nonprofits through the end of 2020.
Using business for social good
Roslyn and her husband, Lisle Payne, a YPO member, are no strangers to using business for social good. Approximately 25 years ago, they launched the Payne Family Foundation, giving primarily to organizations focused on education, health care and youth development. They started small so they could engage their two sons, who were young at the time, and to give them time to better understand the space before expanding their initiatives.
“We started to have some observations about the challenges that these groups are experiencing,” says Roslyn Payne.
What they found was a lack of data for more informed decision-making. Without that data, organizations weren’t able to answer the first question business leaders or donors ask: Is this solution working? They also realized that the organizations were constantly seeking cost-effective ways to do things because of their limited resources. Just like with for-profit companies, they realized data could help nonprofits uncover insights to advance their causes and be more efficient and effective. However, the demand for technology talent made finding affordable solutions practically impossible.
The Paynes understood that they couldn’t help these organizations do what they do better without giving them access to the data and technology that would help them make informed decisions, build capacity and tell their stories. Which is why they helped launch the social enterprise, UpMetrics, in 2017. Their son, Drew Payne, serves as CEO.
Taking a partner-first approach
One of the biggest stumbling blocks UpMetrics faced was recruiting the technology talent to build the platform.
“It was not an easy route to create something that really was, at the heart of it, responsive to nonprofits,” says Roslyn Payne. “Applying a bottom-up approach to building the best solution was critical for the initiative. It was important to really listen to the nonprofits.
Out of these conversations, UpMetrics learned about and began to understand the challenges their partners faced. One such partnership is with the Foglia Family Foundation, which started working with UpMetrics in late 2018 to build and support a portfolio of 11 grantees in the Chicago area. The initial project involved:
- Identifying the impact framework with each grantee
- Developing a plan to collect the appropriate data
- Getting each grantee up-and-running on the platform
- Helping each grantee measure impact and track progress toward goals over time
The partnership has now expanded to 20 Chicago-based grantees over two years. The Foglia Family Foundation has leveraged UpMetrics to drive their impact focus areas, meet new mission-aligned grantees, and have a better understanding of the collective impact of their funding.
“Funders sometimes engage third parties to evaluate the grantees’ work. With UpMetrics, we wanted to apply a partnership-first approach, starting with providing value and support to the nonprofits,” says Lisle Payne. “It turns out to be beneficial to those receiving the funding and it also makes the funders feel good, getting feedback and analytics as it relates to the grantee performance.
Engaging stakeholders during difficult times
As the YPO community looks to give back during the crisis, here are several “takeaways” from the Payne Family:
Set measurable goals. Help an organization break down its mission into a few measurable objectives. Engage the organization, stakeholders and donors to drive alignment on those goals. “Frequently, goal setting becomes a critical element to achieve ‘success’ and the process by itself can be very helpful to everyone,” says Drew Payne.
Identify a time frame. To achieve the goals, expectations should be realistic. “There needs to be an understanding of the challenges that organizations have in trying to meet the goals,” says Drew. “It is the journey that hopefully results in progress. This is critical to get ahead.” Keep in mind that the path toward success will not always be straight and may take much longer than expected.
Take an iterative approach. “The theory of change model with short- and long-term goals translates into an operating plan that will probably demonstrate that the theory is correct, or needs to be modified,” says Drew Payne. “The organization and funders need to have ongoing, open communication lines with a ‘honest’ lens for review.” Applying a theory of change model inherently comes with risk. Remember that it’s ok to fail.
Interpret the data. “Every nonprofit that I have worked with cares about the mission,” says Drew Payne. “Few, however, have the infrastructure and data support teams required to effectively leverage real-time information to drive interventions at scale.” Data and the capacity to leverage information is required for sustainability and scale. Groups like YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America have used UpMetrics data to show financial supporters and school boards who are evaluating cost cuts the importance of their afterschool activities. Having the data to back up the mission is critical so that organizations can report to potential and existing donors about their impact.
Tell compelling stories. One of the best ways organizations can engage their funders, donors and stakeholders during these difficult times is through compelling stories. It can help people understand how they can help an organization make an impact and empower people to take action.
“Trying to get the stories out to as broad of an audience as can be accessed is critical to these groups because they are just getting crushed,” says Roslyn Payne. “We have to have a sense of trust in working together in all of this because it’s not an easy road ahead of us. And a critical element of success going forward will be these community groups.”
To help a nonprofit doing important work in your own community access the tools at UpMetrics, contact Roslyn Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org or + 1 415 205 4852.
For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.