Focusing on Impact: GMN Conference 2015
By: Burt Cummings 3/24/15
We were thrilled to attend the Grants Managers Network (GMN) Conference this year in National Harbor, Maryland from March 16 to March 18. And a majority of the conversations at the conference focused on impact – how to understand it, report on it, collaborate to maximize impact, and get grantees on board as well. These were incredibly important conversations that will help drive grants management forward and increase collective impact.
If you were there, we hope you came by our booth to say hello. If you weren’t able to attend, don’t worry – we put together some key highlights so you don’t miss out on all the fun. And we even recorded our panel session with our client Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and partner The Rensselaerville Institute. We’ll be making this video available to you soon – stay tuned.
There were some amazing keynotes as well as a ton of great breakout sessions throughout the conference. GMN 2015 kicked off with an opening plenary featuring Patty Stonesifer, President and CEO of Martha’s Table, and Melanie Matthews, Director of Capacity Building & Operations at Campion Advocacy Fund. Here are just a few highlights from their conversation:
- The power dynamic between foundations and grantees is incredibly imbalanced. Leaders are always uncertain about where their future funds will come from, which limits an organization’s ability to make bold decisions, seek potential partnerships, and build long-term impact. So what can we do about it? We need truth seekers. These are people who will say what you really need to hear, not what you want to hear. This will release a free flow of ideas.
- It’s critical to focus on collective impact, not getting money out the door. As Patty noted, “Grants managers are the keeper of collective impact through our data systems.” Aggregating your organization’s data with already existing data in the community will drive collective impact. Data is gold but only if it’s data that is useful.
- We are all in this together. Patty reminded us of a powerful African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The kind of change that everyone who was at GMN wants to create cannot be done in isolation. We all need to work together, combining the powers of private, public, and government sectors, because that’s where the magic happens.
An additional highlight from the conference was seeing one of our partners, The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI), at GMN. Wendy Watson-Hallowell from TRI presented two invaluable sessions about achieving outcomes with grantees. After all, their results are your results. She gave some advice on how to help grantees define outcomes, explore different capacity-building options, and ultimately improve your overall impact.
And my favorite part of the entire conference: I was lucky enough to moderate a panel that was made up of one of our clients, Kristin Meyer from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and Wendy from TRI. We partnered with TRI and Starwood and through this collaboration, Starwood was able to completely transform their strategy from funding to actually investing in grantees and their outcomes. Kristin explained that TRI helped Starwood get very clear about their focus areas and desired outcomes, while Versaic offered the flexible, customized software system to support and manage the collective impact of grantees. This rich approach means that the Starwood Foundation is truly seeing and reporting on impact based on their investments. We were able to record this amazing discussion and it will be available soon, so please keep an eye out for it.
Ultimately, grants management should be an accelerant to social change, not an obstacle. Impact in communities requires collaboration, giving a voice to people who benefit from programs, and the right technology (including data!) to support long-term strategy and impact reporting. Grants management should not be an obstacle to your impact, and we’re here to help you maximize and report on your impact .
It was great to see so many familiar and new faces at GMN. Thank you all for the insights and conversations, and thanks to GMN for putting an amazing event together. We’re already looking forward to next year in New Orleans.
To learn more about impact reporting and how it can benefit your organization, please click here.