Turning the tables (just a little)

We’re pulling the trigger on creating an app/platform that will enable us to get rolling feedback and ratings on our performance, from our grantees. Advocate Creative will be building us a platform that is simple to use, quick to complete and 100% anonymous. Our hope is once we have it in place our grantees (and others) can rate us on 3 characteristics on a rolling basis—as often as they...

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PF Ticker

By Jessamyn Lau

For your interest, a small grab bag of numbers from the PF over the last two months:

Grants 29 (programmatic and family giving)
Board meetings 1
Calls 82
Meetings/site visits/events 53
PF team house points earned 16

I’ll probably do another grab bag of #‘s soon, and perhaps delve in to a little of what the numbers reflect/where they come from. I was reading about/looking at Nicholas Feltron’s annual reports and getting inspired. The discipline and beauty his reports reflect is inspiring. Something to aspire to.

The love-hate Salesforce ratio

By Jessamyn Lau

We’ve been using Salesforce for a while now. Some days it fills me with hope for a future filled with cool useful stuff our organised data will help us discover. Others it makes me want to throw my computer out the window. More often than not it’s been the latter.

Today was one of those rare hopeful days with Salesforce (Sf). Lanee and I just got off the phone with our new Sf consultant who is about to do a second round of Sf configuration for us. And after talking with him I am hopeful about reversing the Sf love-hate ratio.

We will know more in the new year.

Someone Else Implementing a Brilliant Idea -Part 2

By Jessamyn Lau

Here’s the latest update from our friends implementing a self-directed reporting process. See previous blog posts here, and here.

“We put together a quarterly report on our work in Haiti for Q2, just as we’d done for Q1. But this time we also put together a Keynote presentation and scheduled a Webex call so that people could hear us talk about the work and expand upon it in ways that a powerpoint can’t do on its own. We all congratulated ourselves on a job well done - it was concise, it was informative, it was entertaining - and sent out a copy of the presentation. We just regretted not having recorded the audio version but figured we could do that the next time.

Of course… it turns out we only had a handful of people who dialed in to the call/presentation, in fact I think we had more internal staffers on it than outside participants. Ultimately, given everyone’s busy travel schedules and the fact that getting everyone in one room at once represented a considerable (human) investment on our part, we decided that for the next update - Q3, out next week - we will just be sending out a PDF version of the original-style document. So maybe simpler was better.

We’re not averse to doing another presentation, we just want to make sure it was worth our while. Worth anyone’s while, really. And if we’d gotten a check in the mail for some general operating support as a result of someone’s total confidence in us, we might have changed our minds again! But at present, I think that’s all that we, at our limited capacity, are able to do.”

Interesting. It’s still early days for this org, but it seems that the value of one reporting system is not as cut and dry as it might initially look. One of the reasons I thought this concept, of one report and one reporting call, made sense was that relationships could be built amongst the funders of an organisation.

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a little about this when I’ve been on conference calls. Interaction and audience participation is really hard to cultivate in a group conf call setting. And that’s when people do in fact remember to dial in to the call. Has anyone cracked this puzzle? Are there specific things that can be done to ensure people 1) value the call enough to be sure they will dial in, and 2) have the right set up for meaningful and productive discussion? Or do you still end up following up personally with everyone after the call?

As always, comments and ideas are welcome.

Someone Else's Brilliant Idea #2

By Jessamyn Lau

We just offered to make intros/recommendations to 7 different funders/supporters on behalf of one of our SE partners. This doesn’t happen every day, so how did it occur?

It was check in time for one of our Global Partners this week. They sent us over internal materials (already prepared, not specific for us) for review before the call. One of the documents was an asset map -a full list of all the potential and current asset providers on the org’s radar. Sending this was a very smart move.

It’s only the second time we’ve had a SE send us their asset map in full -often times partners highlight a few key relationships they are focusing on building, or give us a verbal run down of the funders they are preparing proposals for. A full asset map lays it all out there: Organisation, Primary contact, Deadline, Current status, Funds expected, Likelihood for success, etc. It included both current and potential supporters, financial and non financial supporters. We had a complete picture of who this organisation had talked to, who they decided it was not worth talking to, and who they were currently talking with. We also saw who they had approached but had not been a fit.

As a funder who adamantly believes in the missions of the organisations they support, wants to be supportive beyond simply cutting a cheque, and is operating with a lean team, this information is huge. We looked down the list and immediately saw a bunch of people in the ‘high likelihood’ category, with whom the Peery Foundation has strong enough relationships with that we’d be happy to make a recommendation. Some of those people are folks that the SE did not know we knew -they would never have known to specifically ask us for a connection to them. Sharing everything helped us see what was most needed (that we might not previously have been aware of) and thus where we could really help.

It’s also impressive from a funder perspective. We have a greater belief in this SE’s self-awareness, level of strategic thinking and relationship savvy.

I’m trying to think of situations where you wouldn’t want to share this info… but if you have funders that you trust and who trust you then it might be worth sharing your full asset map with them. You never know what networks they’ll be able to open up for you.

Someone Else Implementing a Brilliant Idea

By Jessamyn Lau

A few weeks ago I wrote about VisionSpring’s funder reporting process. The week after the post went up I received an email from a manager at an organisation that was just about to make a similar shift. They wanted to movefrom reporting individually to each of their funders -according to the reporting frameworks each of those funders required, to creating one dashboard of the organisation’s own metrics, inviting all their funders to take part in one reporting discussion. For more on the process see my previous post.

We realise that this is not a small decision, and a scary leap to take. I asked the org if they would mind sharing this journey, their motivation, trepidation, hurdles and hopefully success. Here is part one, as they begin this transition:

“As a small nonprofit, we often feel like we are beholden to the whims and vagaries of our funders and partners. This usually means that we conform to their reporting schedules and geographic and programmatic preferences, but oftentimes it signals a positive, and leads us to new opportunities, or affords us the chance to look at our work from a different, but equally meaningful, perspective. We are pleased to have been able to work with outside experts in monitoring and evaluating our programs, but in all honesty can also feel a little schizophrenic when working with some funders who exact strict and demanding reporting of us, while others sign over grant monies without so much as a follow-up email.

We decided, as an experiment, to take matters into our own hands (inspired in part by the Peery Foundation blog post on nonprofits’ self-reporting activities): in addition to the donor-mandated reporting for one of our larger programs, we developed a presentation that we plan on updating quarterly, sharing with all of the supporters - both financial and otherwise - of the program. In fact, we plan on opening it up to anyone interested in our work, and will hold quarterly conference calls in which we review the presentation, answer questions and - most importantly - respond to many queries all at once. This will mean a tremendous time saver for us, and hopefully will instill confidence in our network of supporters, both in our ability to do our work well and in our belief in evaluating ourselves on an ongoing basis. We’ll see how it goes…”

I’ll be checking in with them again in a couple of months to see what pleasant or challenging surprises this process brings.

We’d love to hear from you if you’re in a similar position. What difficulties are you facing? What benefits are you reaping?