As a society, we’ve learned that building communities where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive must be done with intention. As a social-good leader, your mission is to deliver interventions that create positive change for those who need it most. But no change can be considered truly positive unless it is also equitable. Part of your mission must be to eliminate inequities for your beneficiaries.
But how do you know if you are successful in achieving your goals? And if the change you create is both sustainable and equitable? The landscape has changed in the social-good ecosystem over the last decade. You can no longer do what you’ve always done and hope for the equitable and sustainable outcomes you seek. You must learn to adapt and pivot to create the type of impact that really changes lives.
Your organization may be new, or you may have worked in the social-good sector for decades. Either way, your path to sustainable success includes understanding where you are and if your strategies are achieving your mission. Both funders and governments have shifted towards outcome-oriented philanthropy, where measurable results and equitable outcomes are the key to developing partnerships and increasing fundraising. In addition to building your organization, understanding your impact provides you with the information needed to make adjustments that ensure you are creating equitable and sustainable impact.
Developing the Right Mindset for Sustainable Impact
One of the keys to becoming an adaptable organization is a shift in mindset. In 2006, psychologist Carol Dweck developed the ideas of fixed and growth mindsets. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that talents, abilities, and skills are constant and unchangeable over time. Organizations, and individuals with fixed mindsets are inherently static because they do not see their potential for change. As a result, they tend to maintain the same procedures and methods for extended periods of time without examinations to confirm their effectiveness. Organizations with a fixed mindset also miss out on the opportunity to build up their greatest resource, their people, through training and other capacity building strategies.
In contrast to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset recognizes that abilities, talents, and skills are learned. Effective teachers attempt to instill a growth mindset in their students because it helps those students understand that learning is a process. Not knowing something today does not mean that they cannot master those same skills tomorrow.
Organizations who develop a growth mindset become active learners. They ask themselves what they know, and also what they don’t know. They look at their activities and programs with an eye towards improvement. They take a step back to evaluate their current effectiveness and then honestly admit where they need adjustments or even a complete redesign. Creating social impact is not a destination, it is a process that takes a willingness to adapt as circumstances change for individuals, communities, and society as a whole.
Asking the Right Questions
Part of learning to grow as an organization is finding new resources. You cannot expect to adapt while also doing what you’ve always done. You need new ideas and new tools. One example of a resource to help you learn to develop equitable, sustainable impact is the Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI). The EEI started as an attempt to understand how existing evaluation practices in the philanthropic sector meet the needs of the 21st Century. From there it grew into a partnership that includes organizations and individuals with experience in philanthropy, nonprofits, and evaluation. In 2018, the EEI started a five-year initiative with the goal of creating an extensive network of organizations who are grounded in their methods.
The EEI is not a specific program or designated checklist of items. Instead, it is a framework designed to encourage evaluators and organizations to ask essential questions that help them understand social challenges and the context of their creation. For example, some of the questions may include:
How have historical and structural decisions contributed to the condition being addressed?
How are our organization’s programs and procedures promoting equitable outcomes?
How do we promote participant ownership in their own success?
Asking quality questions is an important first step in finding solutions to complex problems.
Using the Right Tools
In addition to asking the right questions, you need tools that empower your organization to increase your impact. Technology must be part of your strategy for becoming adaptable as an organization and creating a growth mindset. The old methods of data collection and analysis are burdensome and often inaccurate. Manually collecting data and then inputting and organizing it in spreadsheets takes valuable time that could be used elsewhere. It also opens up the process to higher risk of human error.
Even if the final reports are nearly perfect, manual collection and analysis takes time. This means that once your data is organized and analyzed, you don’t know where you are right now. You know where you were days, weeks, or even months earlier.
Modern impact management software provides an effective and efficient way to track and measure your organization’s positive impact. It also enables you to aggregate data by demographics to help ensure that you are creating equitable outcomes.
Technology can seem like an unnecessary expense in your already tight budget. But what is the cost of not having it? The right tools make you more effective and efficient as an organization. Using software to handle most of the tedium of data management frees up your most important resource, your people, to do what they do best, build relationships. Having real-time data, instead of dealing with long delays, allows you to pivot and change with the ever-changing circumstances of your communities and clients.
Instead of asking yourself if you can afford to pay for technology, the question should be whether you can afford not to. (For more information, see “What You Need to Know About Funding for Technology.)
SureImpact shares your passion for driving social change. Our impact management platform is designed for social change makers by social-change makers. SureImpact provides the data collection and impact reporting infrastructure to meet the unique needs of social-good organizations as you work to achieve your organization’s mission all year long. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools are designed to help you manage, measure, and communicate your social impact while also increasing data capacity for your team members and supporting a high-performing culture.
To learn more about SureImpact, check out our quick product tour.