What does “data capacity” mean for fundraising?

We wanted to share a resource developed by Powered by Data, a non-profit initiative we launched to work with nonprofits, funders and governments to help them better use, share and learn from data.

How would you rate your organisation’s “data capacity”?

Simply put, data capacity refers to the ability to use data effectively within an organization.

Building data capacity doesn’t just happen on its own -- it requires the right tools, skills, policies and workflows. And more broadly it means adopting a data-informed culture across the organisation.

But the benefits it brings make it an important opportunity for your organisation’s success: better institutional memory, improved operations, and the ability to experiment and adapt much more quickly.

For fundraisers, it can mean improving your ability to target the right funders, increasing the effectiveness of your asks, and better communicating the impact to funders and other stakeholders.

In fact, fundraising can be a great place to start the “data conversation” within your organisation.This was one key takeaway from discussions on data capacity held during Transform the Sector, a conference that Powered by Data held in February that aimed to highlight how the Canadian social sector can harness the opportunities of digital data.

You can learn a bit more about data capacity by watching this 5-minute video produced after the conference:

 

And here you’ll find a complete report based on the data capacity discussions.

Finally, if you’re interested in digging even deeper, this page compiles all the resources that we’ve produced following Transform the Sector 2017.

We hope you find all these resources informative and useful, and we’ll be sure to let you know about the next edition of Transform the Sector.

And as always, happy fundraising!

Your friends at Ajah

Ajah and Foundant partner to build Canadian Grants Management API

May 29th, 2017 - Today, Ajah launched its Canadian Grants Management API (Application Programming Interface), developed in partnership with Foundant Technologies. The API is a tool for grants management systems that automatically checks the current charitable status of grant applicants and returns information about them. This helps grants officers by reducing the time they spend on assessing compliance.

The API is based on a similar service that already exists in the US. It will leverage the world-class open data Canada possesses about its charitable sector to create a practical solution for Canadian philanthropic professionals.

“Thanks to the new Canadian Grants Management API,” said Daren Nordhagen, President of Foundant Technologies, Inc., “we are able to offer new services that leverage public information and open data. We have integrated the API into our grants management services to help philanthropic professionals inform their work. This is a great example of how open data can offer practical solutions for the nonprofit sector.”

“This API represents an important piece of basic infrastructure for the Canadian nonprofit sector,” Michael Lenczner, CEO of Ajah, Inc. said. “We believe that having access to relevant information is what will help the sector increase its effectiveness, and we expect this API to be one part of a vibrant and interconnected tools that can enable new services for Canadian non-profits.”

Foundant Technologies provides software to maximize the impact of the philanthropic community to more than 1,200 charitable organizations. Foundant’s rant Lifecycle Manager (GLM) solution makes it easy to receive and evaluate online grant applications, record decisions, and measure outcomes using philanthropy's most user-friendly and affordable online grants management solution.

Ajah is a Montreal-based company that develops data-driven solutions for Canada’s charitable and philanthropic sectors. Ajah builds uniquely useful products by combining its technological expertise with its first-hand experience leading social impact organisations. Ajah believes in the power of new technologies and information sharing to transform Canada’s social impact sector, which is at the heart of its work.

 

An exciting new resource for fundraisers and prospect researchers

We just received our copy of Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers. It looks great. We were happy to sponsor the publication of this invaluable resource intended for fundraiser and researchers getting their start in prospect research. The launch coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Canadian Chapter of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA Canada). Here’s more on the book from APRA Canada:

“In this book, 30 skilled contributors share their front-line experiences in the field of prospect research. Through their words and knowledge they reveal why Canadian researchers are not only specialists in their field, but also passionate about ethics and standards and continually improving a profession that they love.”

You can order it here.

We are opening up our doors to the Montreal startup community

Here at Ajah we have always been passionate about openness. Our software tools use open data to offer the nonprofit sector unique insights into their funding environment. So we get the value that openness creates. That is why we are excited to be opening up our doors on September 22nd as part of Startup Open House Montreal.

Startup Open House started back in 2013. Originally it was a unique kind of career fair that allowed participants to visit startup offices to experience the work environment and products they would potentially be building. It has since evolved into an opportunity for the startup community to showcase their products and talent to investors, job-seekers and the broader public.

With diverse backgrounds in community development, software development and web entrepreneurship, Ajah’s founders have always considered themselves part of the Montreal startup community. We are proud to be supporting this awesome event and the broader community. We are also looking forward to showcasing our great team and our innovative approach to building software tools to support the nonprofit sector.

So join us Thursday, September 22nd from 3pm to 8pm. Our address is 1124 Rue Marie-Anne #11. We’ve got some fun stuff planned. 

 

More than just a program: Some (not so) big secrets to finding more funders

We all know how it feels to run out of suitable funders for our cause. With the usual approach — looking up funders whose stated interests match our programs — we always seems to find the same small pool of funders. Why is is that research so limited? The reason is because of two (not so) big secrets we want to share:

Secret #1: Funders don’t fund programs and projects.

They fund outcomes and issues. Funders are trying to solve big problems, like “youth leadership” or “helping the community.” They aren’t looking for specific programs to support, but they are interested in supporting programs that address the issues they’re interested in. Take the example of capital projects — very few funders have a passion for constructing buildings for the sake of buildings. But, they are interested in supporting buildings that enable the work that addresses the problems they care about.

Secret #2: Funders do a bad job at communicating their funding interests.

Some of them use the wrong words. Some of them don’t publish any information at all (or haven’t even figured out, for themselves, what they fund). Some of them even say the opposite of what they actually fund. So, if you exclude funders based on what they say, then you are actually excluding yourself from new funding.

Ok, so now what?

To get around these two (frustrating) facts, we have to see our organizations as more than our mission, and change how we look at funders.

1. See yourself as more than your mission: Finding more funders outside of the usual circle requires looking outside of the normal areas - thinking really outside of the box. Let's say you are fundraising for a food bank. Only 27 funders were included in a recent assessment of food philanthropy by Community Foundations Canada — a pretty small pool if you’re only looking for food funders. But food banks work on way more issues than just delivering food to the needy. Let’s look at just a few program examples:

  • Community kitchens teach people about nutrition and improve community health
  • Production gardening supports environmental responsibility
  • Partnerships with schools and workshops provide education as well as support for youth

The same goes for any charity — there are plenty of funders interested in all of those issues — we just have to make it clear to them how our work affects the areas they work on.

2. Change how you look at funders: It’s rare (though still great) to find funding criteria that matches our organization perfectly. Instead of evaluating the match between funders and our organization, we can get better results by figuring out how to describe our organization according to the language and criteria expressed by funders. Take an education charity, for example. You might find a foundation whose mission is to build a healthy and creative society. They don’t mention education, but it's still a great fit — education leads to a healthy society. All you have to do is explain how your work is relevant to the funder’s issue.

Find more prospects, get more support

These two approaches are great ways to expand your circle of potential funders and find more prospects. Raising that number is really important, because fundraising is basically a numbers game — it takes lots of requests to get money coming in. Limiting research to narrow categories decreases the amount of potential funding. So start writing those requests, and be prepared for that first “no” — that’s when the relationship with a new funder really starts.

Proud to be Sponsoring Montreal's Social Innovation Challenge

We at Ajah are happy to be sponsoring Montreal's Social Innovation Challenge, May 12th-13th, hosted by the United Church of Canada and organized by the team at Percolate. This event invites community members from all sectors to pitch their ideas for a better society. As their website describes,

"The Social Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for people with ideas to meet with funders who want to support people and projects that are committed to making changes in their local neighbourhoods and communities." 

While we are always excited to be involved in events that bring new people and ideas to the non-profit sector, we are particularly invested in the themes of this event: transparency, innovation, and collaboration.

Toronto's Social Innovation challenge was this past weekend, May 6th-7th.  Check out the third place winners from that event, The Canadian Challenge.  Also, you can watch participants from other city's events pitch their ideas on Social Innovation Challenge's YouTube Channel.

 If you have an idea about how to make the Montreal community a better place, or want to hear from people who do, then you can register here.  

Collaboration FTW!

As fundraisers, we all think about the stack of application on a funder’s desk -- well, more accurately in their grant management software.  We ask ourselves: how can we make our application stand out?  One way is by collaborating with other organizations.  Not only does partnering with another charity or nonprofit demonstrate to a potential funder that you understand your communities needs, it lets them know they are not funding redundant projects.  It provides them with the added assurance that two organizations will use their expertise to overcome problems, create innovative strategies, and share what is learned more broadly.

In the spirit of collaboration, we invite you to take a look at Landscape.  It is an innovative online tool we developed with Powered by Data, the nonprofit initiative we started in 2014.  Landscape was launched at the Community Knowledge Exchange to demonstrate how open data could be harnessed to map who is working on what.  Still very incomplete and in its beta stage, the data is collected from among those major funders who publish their grants online with descriptions such as Environment Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  Take a look around!  The database can be filtered by issue, region, funder, organization and keyword.  Although limited in scope now, we’re excited to work with Powered by Data and the inaugural community philanthropy fellow, Alex Draper, from Edmonton Community Foundation, to take Landscape from a pilot project to indispensable tool used by nonprofit executives daily to facilitate collaboration.


We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments!

Come say hello: Ajah at CKX

We are excited to be attending the CKX Summit in Toronto this week. The three-day event will host a variety of speakers that will tackle four main themes;

  • how nonprofits can use research to make informed decisions
  • how we can turn data into knowledge for change
  • how we can use stories to communicate our impact
  • and how we know if we are making a difference.

Most of the work fits within our PoweredbyData initiative. Our nonprofit arm that wants to increase the quality and quantity of data in the non-profit sector.

Before the event starts, guests will have the chance to meet the Ontario Nonprofit Data Strategy Working Group with PoweredbyData and the Ontario Nonprofit Network, where we will continue to develop a data strategy for the province.

On Thursday, Michael will be joined by Jake Hirsch-Allen from Functional Imperative and Gena Rotstein from Dexterity Ventures Inc to discuss open philanthropy in a session called Can Open Data Unlock Fort Philanthropy? A Case Study in Three Parts:

You’ve probably heard about Open Data and Open Government. But have you ever considered the radical idea of Open Philanthropy? What would happen if you applied the principles of open data to philanthropic institutions such as foundations, funders and grant-makers?

In this session you’ll be introduced to three open data initiatives that are doing just that.

During this session, we will be launching a new public tool (codename: Scryer), which repurposes funder data to help nonprofits gain insight.

Later on, Michael will be hosting a participant “jam” session entitled Building a Data Strategy for Ontario’s Nonprofits: again with Heather Laird from the Ontario Nonprofit Network and Jamie Van Ymeren from Mowat NFP

What’s a data strategy? And why do we need one for the nonprofit sector in Ontario?

This workshop is a chance to discuss the data nonprofits use, what we need access to, and the core elements of a strategy that is being developed by dozens of organizations across Ontario. After a history of who’s in the picture now and where the work is heading, this session will provide participants with starting points to put data to work for their organizations, and a chance to share perspectives on next steps in this strategic work to support Ontario’s nonprofit sector.

There are a ton of other exciting discussions at the summit that we are excited to attend. We hope to see you there!

If you cannot make it to the event, follow the event at #CKX