Data-driven strategies for nonprofits
Sheri Chaney Jones has been leading data-driven strategies for nonprofit and government organizations for a few years (she even wrote a book about it). Now her company SureImpact, located in Columbus, Ohio, continues to help mission-driven organizations operate more efficiently and achieve performance goals.
Flyover Future spoke to Jones about how SureImpact tackles this mission.
What do you do for the organizations with whom you work?
Jones: We help them better track and measure their unique social impact. Our clients use the insights we deliver to them to become more efficient and effectively raise more money.
How did SureImpact begin?
Jones: About 12 years ago, I launched a company called Measurement Resources, in which we did the work to provide these insights manually. Five or six years ago, our clients started coming to us saying they loved what we were providing but they wanted the insights at their fingertips, rather than have to wait on us to crunch the numbers and give them a report.
So that led us on a quest to research what technology we thought our customers should be using. Through that kind of analysis and market research, we realized there was nothing out there we would recommend for one reason or another. It wasn’t doing what I thought it would, still with consulting costs on top of it. So we built our own.
At that point, you worked with Rev1, right?
Jones: We went to Rev1’s customer learning lab. The process helps you validate your market and understand your impact. We were thinking we would learn that our idea wasn’t good. During that process, however, we learned that 55% of our ideal, decision-maker clients said that they would purchase it.
We stayed in touch with Rev1, and they became the our lead and our first seed investment.
How’s the business doing now?
Jones: Quite well. In 2019, we had a beta [version], where 10 nonprofits paid us for their first license upfront so we could build out SureImpact. They helped us define feature requirements, provided feedback and validated the product as we were building it. Once the product was fully stable and functional, we launched in February 2020. Of course, then the pandemic hit. So although growth wasn’t as much as we projected in 2020, we still picked up several customers.
One of those was The Siemer Institute, who brought SureImpact to 50 U.S. markets through the United Way channels and another 143 providers. We have a national presence. Just over the last five months, we went from 14 users to over 200 organizations across the country.
Can you walk me through an example of your platform in use?
Jones: It’s like a case management platform. Local social service providers can track the progress of a person: Have they gotten housing approved? Have their wages increased? Did they start a business? All of the benchmarks are recorded.
When funders log in, they’re able to see across their networks and how they’re moving the needle. They can see if one program is better than another. They can see on a national level whether they’re delivering the same outcomes as another geographic area. Is Boston having better outcomes than Austin? If so, then why?
Speaking of cities, what are the advantages of being located in Columbus?
Jones: The cost of living is great. The schools are great, and I can live in a house that can fit my husband, myself and our four children. I think about the size of my home and what it would cost if it was in San Francisco!
There’s also a great tech ecosystem here in Columbus in terms of the market we serve. It’s the state capital, so we have access to what is going on in a state level that affects policy and our ideal customers. It’s a great place for social services, because we have urban challenges, rural challenges and suburban challenges that are reflective across the country.