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social impactA critical driver for any not-for-profit organization is the ability to raise funds. In the US, we see some 2 million non-profit organizations competing for more than $39 billion donated by individual and institutional donors who are increasingly interested in quantifying the actual social impact of the programs they fund.

As such, frequent and accurate reporting on social impact is a key capability for nonprofits that want to satisfy their donor requirements, and retain supporters to ensure ongoing funding. Given the importance of understanding the social impact of programs it’s remarkable that so few NGOs can consistently provide data to their constituents on the progress that was made. 

Structuring programs and capturing achievements

An increasing number of professional NGOs have adopted the logical framework to structure programs, including capturing of KPIs that measure the social impact. However, technology support for this is often limited to the use of standalone tools like Excel and Word. Each project has different objectives and outputs, measured via different KPIs, which creates a high level of complexity. Once each of these is established on a project-specific level, organizations also need to collect actual values of performance from the field, ensuring that data is being captured accurately and on time.

Embracing Digital Innovation

Feeding back information from the field on social impact and project costs are not necessarily areas of expertise for those working in the non-profit sector, but they’re critical to the mission of the organization and future grants. Standard software is available to help capture the logical framework, define the KPIs, and link this to your programs. Using modern technology, these solutions are also able to use those KPIs and reporting frequency to send messages to mobile filed workers, alerting them report back.

Digital Assistants  

Digital assistants, based on chatbot technology, can guide the users into giving timely and meaningful feedback - all through natural human language and on mobile. Think of a nonprofit that sends food to hungry children in Haiti. The volunteers need to capture their weekly progress on the number of children that received food packages and report back to HQ. A digital assistant alerts your field operatives when to report back on their progress and the amount of food packages delivered, and actively ask question to collect KPI values - they just provide the number. In areas of lower bandwidth, apps with offline capability will work as well.

Respond proactively to project deviations

What if you could take things further and analyze the data to understand the expected “final” social impact of your projects?

Now, the impact of most projects is assessed after the project is complete. In one of her famous TED talks, Melissa Gates described this as ‘bowling in the dark’ - you throw the ball, and may hear some of the pins drop, but you can only see the actual result once the lights go on. Simple predictive analytics takes this a step further by allowing organizations to develop an early understanding of the expected result of their program, enabling them to detect any deviations and get the project back on track.

By using expert tools to support processes, NFP organizations will be better able to deliver on their intended social impact, and communicate about the actual progress of a program to the public – and important initiatives such as IATA -  ensuring they can secure new funding and keep current donors giving.  As nonprofits continue to operate for the greater good on limited budgets, intuitive technology is a necessary component of the process to improve efficiency and compete in a crowded landscape.




Henk Jan Onstwedder, Unit4’s Global VP Not for Profit, Public Services

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