6 min read
Managing social impact programs and the funds that enable them isn’t easy. Whether one is attempting to address unemployment, poor health outcomes, homelessness, the impacts of climate change or other crucial local and global issues facing our communities, it becomes evident that these challenges are interlinked, and selecting which projects to fund becomes overwhelming.
And that’s before we account for the many steps involved in building the relationships that drive social outcomes. Application management, project assessment and deliberation, awarding funds, managing stakeholder relationships, milestones and deliverables, budgets and the ever-important impact measurement and outcome reporting that are essential to evaluating program effectiveness, are also critical steps required to facilitate tangible impact. With so much going on through each of these steps, administrative deadlocks can emerge at any moment, stifling impact and limiting the collaboration between funders, impact managers, delivery partners and beneficiaries.
Connect all stages of the lifecycle in one place
By digitising fund management, philanthropic teams can eliminate much of this busywork, getting back on track to drive impactful community outcomes. Going the extra mile and digitising entire business processes, such as application, assessment, and outcome reporting, enables complete data capture – giving fund managers the information they need to make better decisions, create meaningful interactions with beneficiaries, provide funding partners with full insights, and sharing outcomes with the public. Let’s break down what the project funding lifecycle looks like for a typical organisation in the social impact sector.
1. Streamline project initiation using past project data
All social impact programs start with an idea. This involves background research about how, where, and why a social impact program should be launched, who will it assist, as well as early scoping on timelines and deliverables. Funding is sourced and secured, ideally by showing funders the past impact fund management successes. Where possible it helps to show the impact that was made on the ground, including the beneficiaries supported in the past programs. By bringing delivery partners into the planning phase impact partnerships can develop, inform prioritisation and set long-term goals, and ensure project beneficiaries remain engaged throughout. This approach also enables achievable and well-informed expectations around organisational capacity and operational requirements, as the project planning and contracting phases of the lifecycle get underway.
These days, the initiation phase is quick with major global disruptions creating a growing sense of urgency in the minds of project managers and funders. AVPN’s philanthropic pooled funds, launched in 2021 in response to the emergent inequalities caused by COVID-19, is one such example. With shorter runways to project launch, digitised templates for application forms, eligibility and assessment guidelines, and reporting documentation becomes a must. Being able to adapt and update these key project resources in response to external circumstances enables organisations to bring targeted programs online faster for maximum impact.
2. Increase collaboration throughout the planning phase
While the initiation phase is ending, the planning phase is often already underway. More documentation is developed, project scopes, deliverables and resource management plans get closer to finalisation, and performance indicators are determined. These indicators are critical – serving as the foundation of social impact measurement and evaluation. Commonly drawn from international frameworks and adopted and applied to local requirements, social impact performance indicators provide the comparability required to judge whether a given social impact program successfully represented value for money for funders and beneficiaries or not. Modern lifecycle management software solutions include integrated impact reporting features, including configurable indicators, and options to generate complete impact reports with a click.
The planning phase of the life cycle involves a determination of the project’s place and structure alongside other programs being administered by the organisation. For organisations such as AVPN, who are running multiple programs simultaneously, it is important to manage smaller projects alongside one another, while still having access to key data points required to determine effectiveness across the entire impact portfolio. AVPN utilises the Enquire Lifecycle Management Platform to manage five funds simultaneously, with the system’s scalability enabling them to respond to numerous social issues at the same time, and to quickly add capacity as new needs arise. Data on project partners and beneficiaries is saved directly alongside the project record, making it easier to interact with these contacts as required.
3. Alliances for stronger assessment and project execution
In the execution phase, funds are dispersed to successful applicants, or partners, depending on the funding arrangement. Fund managers must first run a range of due diligences and communications with these external parties – ironing out delivery details and expectations for social impact outcomes. These are some of the more complex and lengthy phases in the project lifecycle– with multiple steps, stakeholders, and levels of security control required to ensure that funds end up in the most deserving, and capable hands.
Using Enquire, AVPN has drastically reduced the time taken to conduct these checks, by consolidating offline processes and enabling immediate tracking of critical processes. Being able to determine where a funding partner’s due diligence checks sits makes all the difference during the execution phase. As a result, just six months after the adoption of the system, AVPN deployed funding to 15 different organisations working across five countries as part of their COVID-19 response.
4. Monitor, control, and close with external partners
After funds are distributed, it is essential that the organisation can confirm that the funds are spent appropriately, which means continuous engagement with the social impact beneficiaries. As these relationships develop, one gains greater oversight into project delivery – identifying possible efficiencies and collecting the reporting data so often sought after by the funders and other public stakeholders. AVPN has used Enquire to help consolidate the impact data into a single system, drastically reducing the time required to generate impact statements for the funders and partners.
Finally, connecting with beneficiaries can help ensure that the work being done is informed by the needs and experiences of the people it is intended to serve. This confirms that the work is relevant, effective, and sustainable over the long term. Overall, connecting funders, partners, and beneficiaries empowers to create more collaborative, effective, and sustainable efforts to address social issues and create positive change in underserved communities.
Automate mundane tasks to amplify impact
Enquire provides the full lifecycle capabilities required to create funding opportunities, deliver payments, set impact goals, and fully track outcomes with integrated document management, scheduling, and milestone tracking, while workflows and automations keep all internal and external team members focused for optimal project delivery.
Want to know more about how digital solutions can connect your fund management team with beneficiaries to generate more impact?
Tactiv continues to support AVPN’s project delivery through Enquire. The software is now supporting the entire funding lifecycle, seamlessly capturing the various perspectives of key stakeholders with collaborative processes that drive better funding outcomes. To learn more about this relationship visit Tactiv’s website. You can also experience Enquire yourself with a free interactive tour of the platform.