We’ve been working hard over the past few weeks to reach out and learn more from foundations about their funding requirements. We’re excited to introduce Michael Weinstein today, who has been a valuable resource in this research. Michael is the Director of Mission Sales here at Social Solutions. He helps his team identify opportunities for nonprofit organizations to use software so they can increase the impact they are having on the individuals they serve. Michael brings a unique perspective to the table, previously working with nonprofit grantors. Understanding what foundations are looking for, helps us work with nonprofits in delivering that data to them.
SS: What were you doing before joining Social Solutions, and how were you first introduced to the organization?
MW: Before I joined Social Solutions, I actually worked at another company that sold software to nonprofits called MicroEdge. Their software package was used by independent, family, and corporate foundations to manage their granting process. When you think about philanthropy, there are two sides: The side that gets the money and provides the service – and the side that gives the money. With MicroEdge, I was working with the organizations that were giving the money.
I worked primarily with those independent, family, and corporate foundations and helped them track incoming applications from nonprofits to understand where they were providing their funds, to which program areas, and track all of their interactions with the nonprofit through the grant.
I was introduced to Social Solutions through Jon Bahl, the Chief Revenue Officer of Social Solutions. I had worked with him at MicroEdge and when he came to Social Solutions, he presented me with an opportunity. I had a tremendous chance to work in the same sector, but on the other side – working with the organizations providing the services, instead of the ones funding them.
SS: How do you apply your experience working with the grant “side” to the service side?
MW: One of the ever-evolving things at MicroEdge was the idea of receiving reports from Grantees. So, if I gave you a grant for $100,000, as a foundation, I would require you to report the impact that funding helped create on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. I’d want to know how many people were served and how. It was incredibly eye-opening to understand that the requirements foundations put on organizations could be solved with a solution like ETO or Apricot. Being able to track service delivery, the people organizations work with, and then provide that information back to the grantors is huge.
I think understanding what foundations are asking for in their grant applications allows me to provide a unique perspective on how we position ourselves to nonprofits. The information that foundations require is becoming increasingly granular and more detailed and has to be more readily available than it ever was before. The biggest shift that’s been happening in philanthropy on the foundation side of things has been the idea of getting away from “checkbook philanthropy”. Meaning, all I’m going to do is write a big check and that’s going to be my good deed and I’m done.
The idea now is called “impact investing”. This requires actually gauging the change you’re creating in the communities you’re investing in. The only way to be able to gauge that change is to have a tracking system at the nonprofit level that allows you to quantify your interactions with clients and see real change over time. Foundations are looking for that more and more and our software’s value continues to grow at the same pace – due to the sense that grant dollars are competitive.
SS: You would say that reporting requirements for foundations have skewed up?
MW: Oh, 100%. Foundations are requiring more reporting, more frequently. Even before securing the grant, the level of data required to receive it has also gone up. Being able to tell what you’ve done in the past will enable you to get more funding for the future.
SS: What have you learned in your time with Social Solutions and what have you brought to Social Solutions?
MW: Working with organizations that give the money is one thing, but working with the organizations that provide the services is an entirely different ballgame. Being able to see and hear stories about how organizations utilize our software to change people’s lives has been incredibly impactful. I think being able to understand the philanthropic space from both sides of the table allows me to uniquely place myself in a position where I can talk to a variety of people on a variety of topics.
Being able to understand and talk to a foundation about a capacity-building grant and their process of releasing that to public creates huge value for the nonprofit asking: “We want to apply for a capacity-building grant. How do I work your software into that grant request?”. This perspective helps me have the broader conversations within Social Solution. It creates a greater impact within our product messaging and approach to empowering nonprofits with the best tools to help them make the greatest impact.