Innovate 2017 Takeaways: Connecting Data to Tell a Story of Impact


This year, at Innovate, attendees saw some fascinating presentations by subject experts in a variety of fields and gained valuable insights to bring back to their respective organizations. Jeremy Aranda’s memorable session covered the importance of connecting data to mission — a subject that’s beneficial to all nonprofits. We’ve compiled an overview of the presentation for those who missed it or would like a recap.

Who is Mission Matters Group?

Mission Matters Group (MMG) leverages years of combined experience in information systems, cloud computing, nonprofit management and process management to help organizations align technology with mission.

Who is Jeremy Aranda?

Jeremy Aranda is a co-owner and Vice President of Business Solutions at MMG. He received his Bachelors from St. Louis University and a Masters from the University of Notre Dame. His passion drives him to find creative ways of helping non-profits gain efficiency and insight so that they tell the story of their impact, backed by empirical data, in a way that’s demonstrable and concrete.

What does Mission Matters Group do?

MMG specializes in advising nonprofits on how modern technology can help increase the impact they have on surrounding communities. The MMG methodology walks clients through a process that aligns strategy, process and people. They then connect nonprofits with organizations, such as JMT to implement leading information systems, cloud-based computing and improved processes to manage all the unique information needs of an organization. Ultimately, they provide a framework for nonprofits to manage relationships more effectively, improve efficiency, simplify reporting and spend more time focusing on their mission.

What did the presentation cover?

One of the challenges nonprofits face is connecting people to their mission and effectively communicating the impact they’re having on the people they serve.

This year, at Innovate, Jeremy Aranda explored the power of connected data (financial, program, client, volunteer and donor) and how it can be used to reduce administrative burden, increase data quality, and maximize the ability for a non-profit to track, measure and effectively tell their story of impact.

Why do people work for nonprofits? The Power of Story

Only 10.3% of the workforce are employed by a nonprofit. Jeremy made the point that these people work at nonprofits because those organizations have a compelling story. They feel that the work they’re doing gives them a sense of purpose and that they’re making a positive difference in the world. They have a passion for that specific cause. Nonprofit employees care about community connection and they want to be connected to a story that’s bigger than themselves.

Why do people give to nonprofits?

People give to nonprofits for many of the same reasons people work for them. Giving also provides a sense of purpose. They feel that they’re using their hard-earned money to make a difference. They’re passionate about the cause and connect with it in a meaningful way. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. When it comes to attracting people to a cause, it’s important to remember that people hear statistics but they feel stories. However, compelling data can make a story even more impactful. To be able to get that data, organizations have to have the right tools in place.

Benefits of tools for insight

Nonprofits must have constant insight into the state of their mission. To do that, they have to implement intentional technology. Having the right tools in place lets organizations better steward resources and stay accountable to their goals.

MMG advises their clients to consider open, cloud-based systems that allow organizations to consolidate and align systems with their overall plan. By doing so, they can connect fiscal and programmatic data to increase effectiveness. And as an organization’s reporting improves, teams are empowered to tell better stories.

Next steps: What should you do?

Nonprofits have to make the transition from anecdotal to data-driven stories. This begins with strategy and planning. To start, you should sit down with your team and establish clear outcomes. Make sure to outline clear measurements of success and define how frequently your team will check up on those metrics to monitor progress.

Organizations must  go from measuring activity to measuring impact. For example, many nonprofit organizations that help the homeless may track activities such as number of intakes, number of people served, number of meals distributed or number of case management visits. But while these are good operational measurements, they don’t tell the full story of what the organization is accomplishing. Organizations must shift their thinking to: How many homeless people are they helping to transition to permanent housing or find employment? How many lives are they changing?

Once nonprofits can fully connect their strategy, team, data and reporting, they’re able to have a much clearer picture of the true impact they’re having on their surrounding community, and they can more easily communicate the importance of their mission to the masses.

nonprofit tools for success