Role of Data in a Nonprofit Merger
How a Strong Data Practice Supported the Merger of Two Youth Development Nonprofits
When Denver Kids and Denver Urban Scholars announced they’d be merging as one entity, there was a lot of excitement. And with the excitement, there was also an awareness of the challenges that could arise for their staff and the larger community amongst the change. The two organizations wanted to get ahead of these challenges, and make the transition as smooth as possible.
We worked together to refine their program model, outcomes, measurement plan and toolkit, which resulted in a clear pathway for the newly merged organization to work together towards the same goals and impact.
FINDING COMMON GROUND
We had worked with Denver Kids prior to the merger, making momentum in their measurement plan and practices, but now it was time to align metrics and tools across Denver Urban Scholars and Denver Kids, and to incorporate the right measures and methods that focused on how to best infuse Social Emotion Learning (SEL) practices into their work.
We started working together to solidify the program models and methods with staff and leadership. Having a shared vision and strategy across both teams from the previously separate organizations provided a target that the newly merged team could work towards together. This first step helped inform the refinement of their existing measurement plan, which would be the guiding resource so their team had clarity on the data they needed to truly drive action and learning. From there we were able to develop the data collection tools that would best meet the needs of their beneficiaries, staff, programs, and organization.
When two organizations come together with a different set of tools, practices, methodologies, cultures, etc., there can be a lot of confusion and frustration. By clearly defining the activities, outcomes and impact that this newly merged team wanted to achieve, they were able to get everyone moving together in the same direction from the start. This coupled with the tools and a clear measurement plan, kept Denver Kids momentum moving forward so that they were able to scale and continuously improve the SEL programmatic components and outcomes for the youth they serve.
HOW TO GAIN ALIGNMENT IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
- Start with “Why”: When we work with teams that are grappling with differences or are stuck, we find it’s because they are focusing on what they are doing versus why they are doing it. When we shift to first focus on the why, and the outcomes we want to achieve, teams are surprised by how much alignment there actually is. By starting with alignment on the outcomes in an Impact Strategy, teams can work more collaboratively together. Action item: Host one or two sessions with your team, and even your board, and create or revisit your impact strategy to make sure everyone is working towards the same goals.
- Set clear expectations: Once the team is aligned on the why, now you can move on to the set of activities, and clearly define the who, what and how, your team plans to achieve the outcomes and impact you set.
- Use data to settle differences: When you do find differences amongst your team, use data to inform your decisions. For example, if a team is stuck on how they are going to perform a set of activities, look at the data to decide what approach has shown to be the most effective. If you don’t have the data, then use this as a learning opportunity and collect the data you need through hypothesis testing. Set a hypothesis and do small trial experiments to test and learn from. Once you have the data and information, take what you’ve learned and use that to inform your decision. Tip: Start with small experiments to reduce risk. Once you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, use that to scale.
If you are looking for more resources to help make data-informed decisions to keep your organization moving forward, let’s connect.