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How to Leverage SaaS Technology for Social Good

 In the last few years, mission-driven organizations have been adapting technology to streamline their core processes, such as grant management, donor management, and community engagement. Cloud-based platforms like Salesforce, NetSuite, and Microsoft, are playing a key role in this area but they seem to be lacking crucial components to understand beneficiary and impact data. The current technology for social good is not yet able to streamline beneficiary and program data aggregation when collected from different sources or locations. Also the understanding of the true impact at the beneficiary level is still very poor.

In this article, we identify five major cloud technology innovations that can be leveraged to impove beneficiary outcomes.

In other blogs we have talked about the need for alignment and collaboration between funders and organizations on the field to achieve real change. But along with this cultural shift, we need the adecquate technology to facilitate this alignment. 

 

WHAT DOES "CLOUD" MEAN?

Cloud computing allows to store and access data over the internet instead of using a local drive. One of the most common cloud-computing platforms for businesses is the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where organizations are able to subscribe to an application that hosts data and access to it over the internet. This technology poses a great advantage for the mission-driven organizations that have many partners interacting with the same data from different locations. 

Based on our clients' feedback, we have identified five innovations needed to leverage SaaS platforms for boosting collaboration and alignment between different players in the social-good field. 

 

1. Human Services Agency Effective Referral and Collaboration

This kind of system is highly required by human services agencies. Let's take a capacity building agency as an example. They know that economic growth is key to lift a community out of poverty, but they also understand that taking un-skilled or low-skilled individuals and advancing them to employment requires the intervention of mulitple social services,  such as training, home shelter, social skills development, social security benefits, substance abuse treatment, etc.

Each agency has its own Case Management system, unable to connect with any other. This barrier results in repetitive data entry, poor collaboration and, often, less-than-optimal services for the beneficiaries.

How would SaaS technology help?

  • Beneficiaries get all the services that they need
  • The data is always up to date
  • Agencies have a proper client referral and followup process
  • Agencies can track beneficiary improvement
  • The ecosystem is able to find holes in the beneficiary life-cycle and improve their operations
  • Employability goals can be defined by agency or by ecosystem

Beneficiary Lifecycle Management

Many organizations in New York, Seattle, and Michigan, are defaulting to replace the entire IT infrastructure for cloud-based systems. While this is possible, it is not a scalable solution for it requires skills and resources to make it work. 

 

2. Integrating Longitudinal Data with Survey Data In Nonprofits

Currently, there are many tools available to mission-driven organizations for collecting offline beneficiary data at any point in time. Some common offline data collection tools are Magpi, SurveyCTO, QuickTap, TaroWorks, and SurveyMonkey. For voice/SMS data collection we have Twilio, Plivo and MogliSMS. But these tools don't have the capability of transfering data from where it is collected to where it is aggregated and analyzed. 

In this case, we need an integration between these offline data collection tools and a system where all the data could be stored and alyzed over time. 

How would SaaS technology help?

  • Logitudinal data allows for a better understanding of the beneficiary's improvement
  • Easy visuaization of the progress to interneve on time when the program is not being effective
  • Posibility to aggregate the data to evaluate the overall program's performance
  • The confidence level of the program's success goes up

 

Longitudinal Beneficiary Data

 

3. Feedback Loop In Nonprofits

In general terms, a feedback loop is a structure where the output of one process influences the input of that same process. Recent technology tools like MogliSMS (mentioned in the previous section) focus on improving this feedback loop between organizations and beneficiaries. In this way, the beneficiaries can provide annonymous feedback about the services they are receiving and the organizations can make agile changes to improve that service.

How would SaaS technology help feedback nonprofits use cases?

  • Organizations could learn beneficiary and product data from often disconnected villages
  • Immediate improvements, better outcomes
  • Supports the concept of longitudinal data 

Feedback Loop

More examples of feedback loop can be found at Feedback Loop Summit and How Can New Technologies Innovate and Demonstrate Evidence of Impact?

 

4.  Data Capacity Of Grantees/Investees

Foundations are starting to ambition a shift from check-writing to an outcome-oriented giving model. But before that transformation happens, organizations need to take care of the data capacity issues that grantees are facing.

Foundations need to understand the grantees' internal data management needs and grant management integration.

Impact Investors should demand a transparent and data-driven reporting from their investees.

How would SaaS technology help?

  • Downstream data capacity. Instead of providing funding to build data management systems that might never fulfill organization's needs, funders can provide grantees, investees, or social businesses with access to a common platform where they can manage their data and make it visible for the funder at the same time
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Higher transparency and accountability

 

5. Funder Social + Financial Portfolio Management

Funders such as Foundations, Impact Funds, Network organizations, Nonprofits, and International Development Agencies should develop a portfolio-based approach to gather a better understanding of the correlation between their investment and the social outcomes.

Today, most funders still collect data in the form of Excel spreadsheets or PDF financial statements, which makes it really hard to manage, aggregate and correlate.

How would SaaS technology help?

  • Automated data collection
  • Both financial and social impact data are collected and stored in the same platform
  • The data from different organziations/businesses comes to the same repository, were it can managed and analyzed 

Program Data Management

 

CONCLUSION

SaaS platforms like TurboMetrics allow to streamline social and financial data collection from different sources/locations. Once the data is in the same repository, it can be easily aggregated, analized and reported.

Platforms like  Beneficiary 360 grant a better understanding of the beneficiary improvement by strenghtening the feedback loops and allow for longitudinal data.

Client 

RELATED POSTS:

* Solving the Most Common Data Collection Challenges in Foundations

 



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Topics: Data Management, Data Collection, Client Data Management, Program Data Management

Unmesh Sheth

Written by Unmesh Sheth on Mar 19, 2017 4:07:36 PM

Unmesh is a founder of a social impact management company, SoPact & co-founder of a non-profit, Ektta. SoPact is a personal vision that grew from 28 years in technology, management, and the social sector. SoPact's TurboMetrics aims to transform global social sector efficiency through data-driven collective impact measurement.

Unmesh has dedicated many years to passion and purpose for unleashing the potential of the social sector. Unmesh has been a technology advisor to many leading nonprofits in USA and India. Years of experience brought a valuable lesson that the most effective way to accomplish long-term sustainable change is through effective measurement, data-driven transparent results, and communication.

SoPact has been designed with this mission in mind. SoPact is a powerful impact evidence platform for social impact & sustainability. SoPact has been designed as an innovative and transformative solution for scaling social sector businesses, foundations, investments, and thus, supporting our beneficiaries.

Maulik