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How Data Enables Purpose-Driven Foundation Board Leadership

The impact and long-term sustainability of social-good organizations depends heavily on the direction set by leadership and the board of directors. The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s (SSIR) article “The Four Principles of Purpose-Driven Board Leadership” introduced the following principles that should define the way the board sees itself and its work: purpose before organization; respect for ecosystem; equity mindset; and authorized voice and power.

One concept missing from this list is the importance of data to facilitate purpose-driven board leadership. To achieve purpose-driven leadership, foundation boards should be basing decision on timely outcomes and impact data from their non-profit partners. Real-time data visibility drives increased effectiveness, efficiency, and overall impact for all members of the social-good ecosystem. SureImpact is an impact management and reporting platform that connects funders, collaborators, grant managers, evaluators, and grantee staff with real-time insights into their impact.

Purpose Before Organization

According to SSIR, “Traditionally, boards are understood to be “mission-driven,” which means the board is responsible for ensuring that the organization does good work that advances its cause.” However, the first of the principle of purpose-driven board leadership states that social-good organizations should focus on their fundamental reason for existing. In other words, why do you do what you do? Is your goal to improve child educational outcomes or increase family housing stability? Or do you aim to increase employment opportunities for vulnerable populations? No matter the causes you support, putting purpose before organization is about moving away from “the organization as the center of its own gravity” and matching its funding resources and activities with the needs of the community.

SureImpact is a secure platform that facilitates board investments and activities aligned with the needs of the community. SureImpact enables boards to analyze the needs of residents and the effectiveness of the various initiatives addressing those needs.

Respect for Ecosystem

Communities are made up of social-good ecosystems that address complex social problems, such as two-generational poverty or workforce development. A successful ecosystem requires multiple nonprofits to be operating at the highest level and collaborating with each other to provide whole-person service coordination. For example, an ecosystem that supports workforce development also may need to focus on providing childcare, transportation, and behavioral health services. A funder who puts purpose before organization and understands how the ecosystem works, may choose to strategically fund three or four organizations who collaborate with each other to maximize the impact on the community.

SureImpact gives funders the ability to examine the needs of the community with de-aggregated, client-level data about the demographics of the community. SureImpact is specifically designed to provide the coordinated data collection infrastructure for collaboratives to evaluate the effectiveness of their collective impact initiatives. By implementing the same mechanisms to track and report outcomes and measure participant needs across all of the participating organizations in the ecosystem, collaboratives can more easily understand what works best in their communities. Foundations also have easy access to data that enables them to identify areas of potential improvement and provide additional support for their non-profit partners.

Equity Mindset

Foundations with an equity mindset are committed to ensuring the organizations they fund deliver equitable outcomes for all participants and populations. To accomplish this, the board may need to consider which programs are the most effective and which organization is best suited to run the program. These types of decisions require data for participating ecosystem members.

SureImpact is an impact management platform that gives foundations and their non-profit partners the ability to clearly define what and how it measures outcomes across the ecosystem. The board has access to dashboards with de-aggregated, client-level data that enables them to quickly and accurately assess complex problems and individual needs, and view demographic data with an equity lens.

Authorized Voice and Power

Foundation boards are the most successful when they directly engage with the organizations they fund in order to gain a deep understanding of the needs, assets, and preferences of the ecosystem and individuals with lived experience. They then use this data to drive funding decisions that put purpose before the organization and focus on delivering equitable outcomes.

SureImpact’s collaborative data model enables funders to define the client demographics and performance measures their non-profit partners are required to track in order to show how measures of social change are improving over time. Funders can set uniform data-collection requirements across the ecosystem or they can define data-collection requirements that are unique to each organization within the ecosystem.


Purpose-driven funder board leadership can transform the social-good ecosystem and increase the outcomes for the participants most in need. SureImpact was built for the social-good sector by people who have been working in the government, nonprofit, and collective impact initiatives for over twenty years. Our impact management platform connects the entire ecosystem so they can manage, measure, and communicate their unique social impact.


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