ARTICLE: 4 bbcon Takeaways for Philanthropic Organizations to Power 2019 Planning

October 29, 2018 Kim Lynes

It has been almost three weeks since we concluded bbcon 2018 in Orlando, and we’re still wrapping our head around the terrific content seen and inspiring conversations overheard amongst over 2,000 attendees from across the social, private and public sectors. With over 275 sessions over three days, opportunities for learning were plentiful. Now that you’re back in the office, digesting all of this new information, are you wondering how to prioritize action steps or communicate best practices to your peers? We thought so, so we put together a short list of items we felt could trigger meaningful conversations just in time for end-of-year reflection and 2019 planning.  

If you missed this year’s conference, you can still use the below points to power new strategies and optimize existing ones.  

Takeaway #1: Think holistically about your program 

At bbcon 2018, Blackbaud announced the cloud solution for each of our main audiences, including the Cloud Solution for Companies and the Cloud Solution for Foundations. Technology is dramatically changing the way we work and live our lives, and the social good community needs to account for this digital transformation that demands increased transparency and also opens new doors. Consumers can ask you publicly about your social good efforts on social media, team members across the world need immediate access to a grant application, funding recipients in remote villages can provide previously inaccessible data, and more.  

As connections increase, it becomes essential for organizations to have a holistic view of all of their activities. That means marketing, finance, analytics, grants management, and more. With so many moving parts and new considerations for philanthropic organizations, it is more important than ever to understand where you want to drive impact, and the specific ways you can get there. Technology that provides that progress across all of your areas of focus and internal departments connects you to those findings faster. 

Takeaway #2: All decision-making should be powered by data 

As our speakers in the session focused on “data-driven storytelling” highlighted, analytic reports don’t replace meetings, but they can certainly help them. Think carefully about what questions could result in data points that can help guide funding decisions, smart partnerships, and stronger board relationships. Keep in mind the following points from speakers Brooke Hansel of Blackbaud, Merrie Beth Nauman of Ocean Conservancy, and Lisa Tacker of Two Ten Footwear Foundation: 

  • Know your audience 
  • Align with the goals of the organization and people you serve 
  • Foster a data culture, and a testing culture 
  • Success is bridging the gap between data and strategy 

In the technology-driven world we live in, an abundance of data is at our fingertips. Taking the time to identify the most important information, and understanding privacy laws as we reviewed in “Cybersecurity and Data Privacy”, will result in an unprecedented understanding of your stakeholders and a strong relationship between each party. 

Takeaway #3: Impact measurement is no longer an option. 

Data doesn’t just allow organizations to create profiles of the people you serve, it also serves as a bridge to extremely valuable impact measurement. As Michelle DiSabato observed in “Measurement Fundamentals: Getting Started”, the “new giver” (whether that be an employee participating in a matching program, a millennial considering a donor-advised fund, or a potential partner) asks more questions about changes in behavior or a condition as a result of funding or other provided resources. This is quite different than the past, when someone would support multiple causes and was generally satisfied with the noble act of giving back itself. 

Have you taken the time to clearly articulate your desired impact, and the outcomes or indicators you’ll need to monitor to see your progress toward that goal? This information allows your organization to review applications based on anticipated results. Combined with check-ins with the grantee or partner throughout the project, these clear expectations of impact increase the chances of hitting your shared goals.  

If you’re just starting this process, consider the creation of a logic model. A tool that can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your program, it forces you to identify your desired outcomes. Once set, all future actions can be compared back to the model. If it doesn’t align with those goals or power the outcomes you want to see, don’t put resources behind it. That means funds, manpower, data collection, and more.  

Takeaway #4: Collaboration is necessary to solve the big issues today. 

Annie Duong-Turner from John Hancock discussed the logic model they have set up for their MLK Scholars Program in “Best-in-Class Partnerships That Are Sustainable”. The program relies on multiple partners including the city of Boston, Boston University, local nonprofits, EVERFI™, Boston’s Center for Teen Empowerment ™, and others. With so many moving parts it is essential that the program be able to stay focused on achieving its desired impact: reducing youth unemployment. 

Cross-sector collaboration was apparent in other sessions as well, from disaster relief to cause marketing to the kick off session for the Corporations and Foundations track. In the latter, Blackbaud’s Rachel Hutchisson explored the crucial role of partnerships in philanthropy today with organizations like Royal Caribbean, National Park Foundation and Coastal Community Foundation. No matter your type of organization or the role you see yourself playing in philanthropy today, it is essential for you to consider other organizations or government bodies that can be your allies tackling the large issues we face today as a philanthropic community. That can mean anything from building a program to address unemployment in your community, to rebuilding an infrastructure after a natural disaster. 

At Blackbaud, we see these four takeaways playing a large role in 2019 and beyond, and have built our technology to support these areas. Explore additional resources around these topics on the Blackbaud Corporations & Foundations content hub, where we’ll also be posting session recordings. Then, lock in your ticket to bbcon 2019 in Nashville now with discounted rates!

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