Strengthening communities with analytics in the cloud
SAS analysis helps nonprofits demonstrate the impact of programs.
backed by trustworthy data
Nonprofit consulting firm CNM uses SAS® Visual Analytics on Amazon Web Services to help other nonprofit organizations measure and communicate the impact of their work
Over the past decade, the American nonprofit sector has expanded by 20%, providing a groundswell of support to individuals and communities in need. But for the 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States, more organizations means more competition for funding.
Corporations and foundations now more than ever must select from a growing pool of nonprofits to decide which causes to fund. This places tremendous pressure on fundraisers to prove the value of their work – a practice many nonprofits struggle with.
Texas-based CNM (The Center for Nonprofit Management) saw an opportunity to completely change that dynamic. For nearly four decades, the nonprofit consulting firm has helped other nonprofits run their businesses better. Increasingly, this means helping them make data-driven decisions, so the firm is digitally transforming to bring the power of analytics to its clients.
“Corporations and foundations are no longer writing checks to just anybody,” says President and CEO Tina Weinfurther. “They want to see social ROI in the community. Yet nonprofits often don’t have the technology or expertise to prove their programs are working. That’s where we enter the picture.”
With SAS, we're able to help nonprofits make data-driven decisions, improve their programs and ultimately have greater community impact. Tina Weinfurther President and CEO CNM
A need filled with an innovative solution
CNM helps nonprofits measure and communicate the impact of their work on the community using reliable data analysis. To do this, the firm conceived of and developed a new service – believed to be the first of its kind in the US – by hiring program evaluation experts and data analysts and by deploying SAS Office Analytics and SAS Visual Analytics, part of the SAS Platform. CNM staff determine what to track and analyze, program SAS and share reports with clients via a secure client portal.
The service, which the firm calls CNM-pact®, is gaining traction. What began as a successful pilot with eight nonprofits has grown to include nearly 60 organizations, all of which rely on CNM-pact to track, analyze, evaluate and report on their programs – gaining insight many couldn’t generate themselves due to staff and budget constraints.
“Nonprofits are seeing the value of showing outcomes based on a valid methodology,” Weinfurther says. “And foundations and corporations are excited about having the opportunity to understand how they’re getting a return on their investments.”
Applying analytics, CNM can better focus on its end goal – strengthening communities. “With SAS, we're able to help nonprofits make data-driven decisions, improve their programs and ultimately have greater community impact,” Weinfurther explains. “We're incredibly enthusiastic about the power of what we're doing, and we couldn't be doing it without SAS.”
The SAS solution is hosted using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) with Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS). By moving to the cloud environment, it enabled a 700% growth of nonprofits CNM can now serve. Supported by Pinnacle, a SAS Gold Partner, the cloud deployment provides numerous benefits, such as expedited access to the software, ease of use and the ability to easily share results with others. It also boasts high availability and virtually unlimited scale, features industry-leading security and provides savings on infrastructure expense.
How it works
For a small fee, nonprofits get a wealth of information that they can immediately act on and promote. CNM uses SAS to digest client data and return crystal-clear metrics on things like business performance, program outcomes, budgeting, staffing and other operational details.
This newfound insight provides two main benefits for nonprofits. It helps them run their businesses with greater clarity, and it helps them demonstrate their outcomes to potential donors. “While many nonprofits traditionally use pie charts to share business results, our clients have access to other visualization options, graphs and charts, thanks to SAS Visual Analytics,” Weinfurther says. “They can choose the best method to convey their message to a specific audience.”
Another perk of SAS Visual Analytics is the ability to view and interact with dynamic reports and dashboards on tablets and smartphones. “Some of our nonprofit clients tell us that when they go to fundraising meetings, they take their iPads to show funders the visualizations of their program results. They can say, ‘Hey, look at the impact we’re having in the community. Look at the good we are doing,’” Weinfurther explains. “Having these robust mobile dashboards to share outcomes is invaluable.”
CNM further aids fundraising efforts with its certification program. Clients proficient with data can become “CNM Certified,” a virtual stamp of approval that validates the methodology used to collect, analyze and report on data.
“This is really important because foundations and corporations are flooded with grant requests,” Weinfurther says. “Previously they couldn’t tell who to give money to. With CNM Certified, our clients are in a stronger competitive position for fundraising purposes because donors can rely on the outcomes being reported. This provides complete transparency about what's working and what's not working.”
CNM – Facts & Figures
years strengthening nonprofits
program of its kind to produce social ROI for communities
New revelations lead to better program performance and greater community impact
With its powerful SAS Analytics platform on the AWS cloud, CNM is helping nonprofits of all sizes take advantage of data-driven decision making. “Without analytics, you could be going down the wrong path and not even know it,” Weinfurther says. “With SAS, we're helping nonprofits see the whole picture and make decisions based on sound data.”
One instance of analytics uncovering a surprising trend pertains to a nonprofit whose mission was to combat teen pregnancy.
“This organization was particularly proud of how its programs were reducing the teen pregnancy rate,” Weinfurther says. “But data analysis conducted with SAS exposed an unexpected trend – while the overall teen pregnancy rate was dropping, the pregnancy rate among one minority group was actually rising. Because of that revelation, we were able to advise the client on how to change its programs to reverse that outcome.”
Another example is how data helped a nonprofit operating a homeless shelter significantly serve more people. In 2016, the organization served 1,600 people. Today, they are meeting the needs of more than 3,000 people with the same number of resources and beds due to CNM-pact. CNM evaluation experts combined with the power of SAS helped the nonprofit focus on better identifying people in need and moving them out of homelessness, which then freed up beds to serve more people.
CNM sees SAS as a critical partner in its mission to strengthen communities. “We believe that as nonprofits are able to show outcomes, the funding will be smarter, and there will be complete transparency of what’s working and what’s not working. Analytics is totally changing the dynamic of fundraising and making communities stronger.”