New WINGS members on data in the social sector

“Having data that clearly demonstrates the gap between need and resources will help us leverage and align philanthropic resources to address urgent, underfunded areas.”

The WINGS global network has brought together the best and brightest in philanthropy support organisations for nearly 15 years—and we’re growing. In 2012, we adopted a membership dues structure and network participants are gradually reaffirming their support by subscribing as dues paying members. (If you missed the latest opportunity to become a full member, you can still join before the end of August.)

WINGS is the only worldwide network representing and serving the broad community of grantmakers, foundations and philanthropy-support organisations, and our membership determines our future development and achievements. Results from our 2013 membership campaign show increasing support for what we do—currently 65 dues paying member organisations from 33 countries, and new members continue to join, bringing fresh input and ideas to the network. We asked a few new WINGS member organisations to give us their take on the topic that’s engulfing the social sector—data.

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Six years after the first reported AIDS-related death by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), philanthropy was still slow to respond to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk for contracting the virus. Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) was founded in 1987 by a group of grantmakers dedicated to bringing philanthropic attention to the AIDS crisis.

WINGS: How does FCAA use data to mobilise the leadership, ideas, and resources of funders to help address the social and economic dimensions of HIV/AIDS both domestically and abroad?

FCAA: To mobilise the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS, we first have to understand how the field works, where funding is going, to whom, and in support of what strategies. Each year FCAA’s signature resource tracking report—US and European Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS—analyses the current landscape of AIDS-related private funding. That data then allows us to compare private funding with the current HIV/AIDS epidemic.

For example, while we know that Eastern Europe and Central Asia is one of the few regions where new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths continue to increase, our resource tracking data also tells us that less than 2% of private funding from US and European philanthropies benefit that region. Having data that clearly demonstrates the gap between need and resources will help us leverage and align philanthropic resources to address urgent, underfunded areas.

Our resource tracking data will also take on an elevated role in monitoring FCAA’s progress. Our new 2013-2015 Strategic Plan, focused on expanding and strengthening the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS, relies on data-driven metrics to evaluate our organisational successes while also holding us accountable for playing a role in helping to drive the growth and impact of the philanthropic response.

Download the FCAA 25th Anniversary Report from the WINGS Knowledge Center.

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The SROI Network uses the Social Return on Investment framework to allow people to manage and understand the social, economic and environmental outcomes of their activity or organisation.

WINGS: How does SROI Network use data uniquely and effectively in the sector, and how can these methods help non-profits—specifically grantmakers, foundations, and philanthropy-support organisations—make better use of their data?

SROI: SROI is principle based approach to understanding and being accountable for the material outcomes that result from an organisation’s work. In this respect, it is agnostic as to what the outcomes might be or how they might be measured. Consistency and standardisation emerges in part from practice and sharing. The application of SROI principles in a framework guides organisations in making two key decisions, the first of which is determining the potential outcomes. The second is how much value do they create or destroy for those experiencing the outcomes.

The purpose of SROI is to reduce inequality and environmental degradation by changing the way we account for value, and it helps give a voice to people who are often excluded from decision-making processes. It does this by formally recognising that the outcomes they experience have a value and that accounting for this value will lead to better decisions. This requires organisations to involve stakeholders in decisions about outcomes, to be accountable for positive and negative outcomes that result from their work, and to recognise that outcomes may happen anyway and the work of other organisations and people may have contributed to those outcomes.

SROI uses qualitative and quantitative data to inform decisions, but also aggregates different outcomes using financial proxies to provide an additional level of summary information. This is necessary for organisations to move from how much of a difference they make to whether they are creating as much value with the resources at their disposal as they can. This process, just like financial accounting, requires judgments. This means appropriate verification or assurance of account or analysis is required to ensure credibility and usefulness.

Answering whether the organisation is creating as much value as it can means that organisations will have information systems that support decision making. Information can then be summarised in different ways for different audiences, including customers and investors.

Watch the new WINGS webinar on SROI, presented by SROI Network and Filantrofilia.

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The OECD Global Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) is an innovative platform to promote dialogue, to draw lessons from good practices and failures, and to influence policy. Specialised exchanges occur through two Working Groups (Enterprise Philanthropy, EP; and Innovative Thematic Philanthropy, ITP), which are smaller “like-minded” task forces.

WINGS: How does OECD netFWD utilise data to assist with experience sharing, lesson learning, influencing policy and developing innovative partnerships in order to accelerate the impact of philanthropy?

netFWD: As many of our members point out, “you can’t improve what you cannot measure”. netFWD places great emphasis on data. First of all, at the horizontal level of our work, we work in close collaboration with the Foundation Center (a netFWD associate) and with our colleagues from the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) secretariat who collect OECD statistics of non-Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows. We strongly encourage our members to share their data with them, following the example of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—which has communicated its data to the OECD since 2009—in order to increase the overall transparency of philanthropy.

In this regard, the study that netFWD is currently conducting on the rationale and value added by the Venture Philanthropy approach to development (Scratching Beneath Venture Philanthropy for Development) is another way of collecting data, as it will gather evidence on this new and promising approach to philanthropy on which we currently have very little evidence and needless to say, even fewer data. Building on the experiences of four of our members—Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, Lundin Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Shell Foundation—the study looks into the “transformative journey” these foundations have undergone, by focusing on one key question: are they doing a better job now? We believe that their experiences, even if some are still in their infancy, will contribute to enhanced transparency and knowledge sharing—and ultimately, policy dialogue on how to make philanthropy for development more impactful.

Finally, to square the circle, netFWD takes full advantage of being part of and hosted by an international organisation which allows us to convey and disseminate foundations’ key messages to policy makers. We do so through policy dialogue and outreach efforts in high-level fora, such as the post-2015 debate in which we are actively taking part with the UN and through the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC). For instance, netFWD has allowed the philanthropic sector to gain an observership status at its Steering Committee (GPEDC) meeting in Addis Ababa on 25-26 July. We sincerely hope this dialogue will lead to enhanced transparency, data sharing and accountability between all stakeholders, in line with the efforts that WINGS and other partners have supported for some time now. We are one piece of a much larger puzzle and we hope our efforts will eventually contribute to making philanthropy for development more impactful. Having joined WINGS is certainly a right step in this direction.

For more information visit netFWD online.

More WINGS interviews here.

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