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Celebrating National Philanthropy Day and Collective Impact

National Philanthropy Day is celebrated annually on November 15. This day signifies the importance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to create long-term impact on the fabric of our society. President Reagan first proclaimed November 15 as National Philanthropy Day in 1986, and communities all throughout the United States and the world have celebrated the importance of this occasion ever since.

In the 34 years since President Reagan first proclaimed National Philanthropy Day, many communities have made significant progress in the way they work together to address complex social issues. Instead of a variety of organizations working individually to solve different issues, many communities now collaborate using a collective impact approach where organizations work towards the same goal and measure the same outputs and outcomes. In general, collective impact is a structured approach used to tackle complex social problems based upon collaboration across government, business, philanthropy, nonprofits and citizen groups. This approach requires partnering these different entities to achieve a common agenda, agree on mutually reinforcing activities, develop shared measurement systems, and commit to continuous communication with feedback.

Collective impact approaches have the potential to solve the most pressing, complex social programs if implemented consistently. Successful collaboratives require leaders and communities to think in a fundamentally different way than they have in the past. Collaborative funding and decision making is a shift for most communities, which is evident by the time it is taking many collaboratives to move from planning (establishing a shared agenda, aligning activities and developing a shared measurement system) to action. It is only then that collaboratives can start collecting data to evaluate and monitor success.

In order to start on your path towards implementing a collective impact approach in your community, start by asking yourself the following questions: How do we begin? How do we create alignment? And, how do we sustain the initiative? The Stanford Social Innovation Review outlined three phases for getting a collective impact approach up and running.

Phase I, Initiate Action

Phase I requires understanding the landscape of the organizations involved and the work that is already taking place in your community. In other words, what social issues do you want to address? What existing work is already underway and who are the key players? Is there any existing infrastructure for collaborating or do you need to build the infrastructure from scratch?

Phase II, Organize for Impact

Phase II requires that stakeholders work together to establish common goals and shared measures, create a supporting backbone infrastructure, and begin the process of aligning the many organizations involved against the shared goals and measures. Which organization will play the role of backbone organization in your collective impact initiative? What are your shared measures? In other words, what does success look like?

Phase III, Sustain Action and Impact

Phase III requires that stakeholders pursue prioritized areas for action in a coordinated way, systematically collect data, and put in place sustainable processes that enable active learning and course correcting as they track progress toward their common goals. This ability to collect, measure, and share common outcome and impact measurement is at the core of the joint collective impact approach, yet collective-impact practitioners report the lack of shared measurement capacity and infrastructure as the most significant challenges to achieving success.

In order to ensure the collective-impact initiative is sustainable, each individual organization needs to have a clear picture of how its day-to-day actions are driving the outcomes of the collective impact initiative as a whole. Likewise, the collective impact initiative must regularly report its progress to community stakeholders using agreed-upon community-wide metrics. One shared resource that is a key component to this infrastructure is a centralized technology platform for collecting and sharing information in a way that connects all of the participating organizations.

SureImpact is a data collection and reporting platform that connects backbone organizations, partners, funders, collaborators, grant managers, and evaluators with real-time impact data. The platform was built for the social sector by people who have been working in government, nonprofit, and collective impact initiatives for over twenty years and have a deep understanding of the unique needs of social sector organizations and their funders. SureImpact allows you to collect, manage, and share data to demonstrate your social impact. By empowering all organizations in the collection, management, and sharing of information and data, SureImpact can radically accelerate the social change your community desires.

As we celebrate National Philanthropy Day, we want to recognize and thank you for all the great work you are doing for vulnerable individuals and families in your community. To learn more about how SureImpact can provide the data-collection and data-sharing infrastructure for your collective-impact initiative, contact us today.


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