Don't just count it, use it


For many foundation collecting data is a way of life. We ask grantees to tell us how many clients they served, how long they were involved with the client, which changes happened as a result of their services. We want budgets and projections and evaluation plans and the list goes on and on. But why? Do we use the data to inform our future grantmaking? Not nearly often enough. Do we track our own data on length of time to return an email or processes to streamline paperwork? Hardly ever. Data is a powerful tool but only if you use it to make change, otherwise it’s just wasted effort.

NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network did a great study on how nonprofits collect data and what they use the data for (if anything). The study pushes for more data driven decision-making, which I think is a great thing for nonprofits and foundations. You can read the study here.

Best Ted Talks for Do Gooders

I am a huge fan of Ted Talks. Ted describes their mission as "spreading ideas." From their website: "We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other." I always find inspiration for my work at a foundation when I listen to Ted Talks so I thought I would compile a list of some of the best for people in the social sector. I have some of my favorites as well as ones that were suggested by my Twitter followers

Bill Strickland is one of my favorite talks ever. I have seen him do this in person but I love this version where he is backed by Herbie Hancock.

Majora Carter is a rockstar and her talk is on greening the ghetto

Jamie Drummond on crowdsourcing goals

Great talk on the mesh, which I think is the future for nonprofits as well

@Upwell suggested 3 talks, as well as a spreadsheet that lists 1200 Ted Talks in a searchable spreadsheet that is available here.

Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Steve Boland from the Nonprofit Assistance Fund has a great talk about freeing the power of ideas.

@mollygmartin suggested Eve Ensler's talk on happiness in body and soul

Leave your favorite Ted Talk in the comments.

2012 Predictions for the Social Sector

Too often in the social sector, our organizations are like rowboats, we are all rowing in the same direction but we are looking backwards as we do it. My personal plan for 2012 is to be more forward thinking, so that I can anticipate what will happen next and prepare for it, rather than being reactive to yesterday's problem. In that spirit, here are my predictions for the social sector in 2012:

0% processing fee for donations

In response to mass protests against the financial services industries, a forward-thinking credit card company decides to demonstrate extreme corporate citizenship and eliminate credit card fees for donations on a charity donation site like Their market share increases significantly, nonprofits see a boost to their bottom line, and other credit card companies quickly follow suit. By 2015, charity donations enjoy 0% fees across donation platforms.

Nonprofit intellectual property infringement

A small nonprofit sued a corporate philanthropy program that uses crowdsourcing contests. In court papers the nonprofit alleged that the corporate giving program used the contest to identify promising trends in the social sector and then funded larger nonprofits to implement those strategies.

95% for social enterprise

A large, national foundation changed its investment strategy from traditional investments that have little mission impact, to 100% of its endowment invested in social enterprise projects. The range of projects that they support include grocery stores in inner city, wind projects, and a Zipcar franchise. The foundation saw an increase in investment returns and was able to leverage its entire endowment for its mission.

Millennial movement

A Top 100 nonprofit hired a CEO from the millennial generation. The organization touts their new CEO's ability to ability to harness the power of technology and manage remote teams. Nonprofit sector analysts watch this placement carefully to determine if this is representative of a new wave of hiring from traditional organizations that are looking to completely revamp the way that they do work.

Common grants become common

Regional Associations of Grantmakers from across the country announce that they have partnered together to create a universal common grant application. The application is widely adopted by grantmakers and significantly reduces the paperwork burden on nonprofits.

Career Agents

An enterprising recruitment firm has identified the trend of Gen X and Gen Y employees taking an increasing number project-based appointments with nonprofit organizations. To capitalize on this trend they added to their staff of recruiters a handful of "career agents", that are not hired by the nonprofit but are retained by the individual nonprofit professional. These career agents identify positions and negotiate on behalf of the professional.

What changes do you see happening in 2012 for the social sector?