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3 Ways Nonprofits are Thinking About Impact in 2020

By January 27, 2020

Whether it’s Marie Kondo-ing your home or refreshing your bucket list, the new year inspires many of us to reflect and think about how we can do better in the year ahead.

IMPACTech ‘19 came at just the right time, closing out the year with a celebration of technology for good. Nonprofit thought leaders and partners came together to exchange best practices and share how they are thinking about impact moving into the new year.

Read on for three top themes related to how nonprofits are thinking about impact: a data-driven approach to the Sustainable Development Goals, personalized communications, and community collaboration.


Amy Guterman, Director of Impact Labs, leading a Speed Geeking session at IMPACTech ‘19.

A Data-Driven Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals

At IMPACTech ‘19, leaders from nonprofits spanning a wide range of issue areas discussed how they are using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their impact measurement. With many social sector organizations measuring their impact using the SDGs, it is important to reflect on why it is important to prioritize inclusive and comprehensive impact measurement.

Sarah Cummings from The Demand Institute and Amit Patel from Accenture shared advancements made by Project 8, a digital commons where researchers and practitioners can share and compare information on the demand for basic human needs such as food, water, and energy.

Project 8 combines Einstein Analytics and Salesforce Chatter to make big, diverse datasets on population and basic human needs more accessible to researchers and practitioners across the public and private sectors. The project brings together leading experts on food security and agriculture and makes insights available where the global development community needs them to make more impact towards SDG 2: Zero Hunger.

In a keynote about the impact of offering college degrees to people in prison, Dr. Lila McDowell from Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison also discussed the importance of expanding impact measurement to advance their organization’s mission. Dr. McDowell shared how Hudson Link has been working with development partners from Idlewild to move from anecdotal, storytelling metrics to impact metrics using Salesforce technology with a focus on SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Although it can be challenging to gather data in prisons, impact metrics are critical for advancing Hudson Link’s mission to improve outcomes for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Impact measurements show that investing in college education for people in prison is key to improving outcomes for incarcerated people, their families, and their communities. These measurements prove the power of Hudson Link’s work — with program participants having an astonishingly low recidivism rate of less than 2%, compared to over 67% nationwide.

Dr. Lila McDowell

Dr. Lila McDowell, Deputy Director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, at IMPACTech ‘19.

Committing to comprehensive impact measurements utilizing the SDG framework is a powerful tool for social change that nonprofits, governments, and the private sector should prioritize in the year ahead.

Personalized Communications Build Trust and Engagement

Tailored communication for segmented audiences was another theme across IMPACTech ‘19.

Derrick Jones from the NAACP described memberships as “the lifeblood of the association.” When the NAACP recognized that many of their members were lapsing, they engaged Traction On Demand to create personalized digital journeys with Marketing Cloud. NAACP’s personalized digital journeys have improved email open rates by 27%, and they have reached 85% of goal attainment for membership retention.

Derrick Jones

Derrick Jones, Director Information Technology Enterprise System at NAACP, presenting at IMPACTech ‘19

Liju Rajan from The Salvation Army also shared how the organization improved supporter engagement and built trust among their constituents through personalized communications. They set out to work with divisions to develop local messaging to communicate local program costs and impact to their constituents.

DEG, an Isobar Company, is helping The Salvation Army to set up automated communications with Marketing Cloud around milestones to target segment audiences with messaging that would resonate. Not only did this improve donor experience, but they also found personalized communications built trust among their constituents.

Community Collaboration Benefits Us All

Bringing together nonprofit customers and partners at IMPACTech ‘19 was a great way to wrap up 2019 with our community. The exchange of ideas, challenges, and best practices brought the spirit of SDG 17: Partnership for the goals to life.

In a keynote about UNHCR’s digital transformation, Prarthana Holburn noted, “Understanding each other’s ambition for impact is so critical for all of our work. Sharing our learnings will help all of us with our shared goals.”

Our community’s collaborative approach shows us that if we work together and share our learnings, we can all make a greater impact and faster progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in the next decade.

Check out our Nonprofit Impact Measurement e-book for more insights from thought leaders in the nonprofit impact space.