When Sally and Karen traveled as a family to Guatemala two years ago, they were surprised at how quickly their sons, Sam and Joey – both 10 years old, noticed and were saddened by the human struggles and injustices that many people in that region were experiencing. It was this experience that made the couple consider how they could involve their kids in their philanthropy – not decades down the road, but right away.
Using data to drive greater impact in community
When it comes to philanthropy and community impact, more and more donors and nonprofit organizations are looking to data to help inform their work and better understand the impact they make in their communities. At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations, we both collect data and distribute it to the community. Currently, we are finalizing the second volume of East Metro Pulse – a survey and report that explores how residents feel about their communities in the East Metro.
“We value the lived experience of the community,” said Nadege Souvenir, associate vice president of Community Impact at the Foundations. “East Metro Pulse is a way for us to share that lived experience through data, since we recognize that data is a part of how a person might decide where they give and which causes they support.”
East Metro Pulse is a tool we use at the Foundations to measure community vitality and quality of life in Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties. We ask East Metro residents how they feel about community connectedness, economic opportunity and security, education and more. The data is shared with nonprofits, community members, elected officials and donors to support their work. We also use it at the Foundations to help inform our priorities around grantmaking and our work as conveners and partners in the community.
“We know that organizations use the information from East Metro Pulse in strategic planning and grant proposals, and to think about new ways to expand their work within their communities,” said Souvenir. “In the upcoming volume, we’ll also be sharing some of the ways the Foundations work in each of the survey areas, which is an additional resource to donors, helping them direct their giving.”
We also connect donors with relevant information and data to help them make informed decisions around their giving – helping to narrow nebulous issue areas into something more focused. In recent years we launched our Giving+Together program, which connects donors to information they otherwise might not have access to by sharing perspectives on important issues affecting their communities and connecting them with nonprofits and like-minded philanthropists.
“Over the last several years, we’ve noticed that donors care more and more about the impact of their grants,” said Jeremy Wells, vice president of Philanthropic Services at the Foundations. “They want more than just knowing their grant made a difference – they want to know direct results, and how they’re advancing the mission of the organization.”
And while data is important, at the Foundations we believe it is just one aspect of philanthropy.
“Data complements the mission-centered, relationship-based nature of philanthropy,” said Wells. “It doesn’t drive people to support certain causes, but it can affect how engaged donors are in an organization’s mission. Data tells a story and is a beneficial resource to donors as they focus their giving.”
Want to know more? Reach out to our philanthropic advisor team to learn more about how the Foundations provide valuable information, data and resources to support donors and the issues they care about, and check back in January for the newest volume of East Metro Pulse at eastmetropulse.org.