As someone who has attended well over 1,000 events in my professional career, I’ve learned to expect and tolerate varying levels of self-promotion from the organizers. As they invest massive amounts of time, money and energy to execute a great event, I’ve never minded anyone shining a modest spotlight on their efforts. Earlier this month, @Lina501c & I attended the CLASSY Awards in San Diego, California and experienced the opposite. This event was truly about the attendees – the nonprofits, their missions, their people, their outcomes – that the host didn’t say anything about themselves until day two is a “classy” testament to the StayClassy name and team. It was impressive, appreciated and was one of many reasons this event remains a must attend for our community.

Through a cycle of nomination, evaluation and selection that continues throughout the year, the Classy Awards recognize the best of the best against a backdrop where all the nominees are doing phenomenal things to catalyze social progress. This is a wonderful event as well as an ongoing effort to raise awareness for the contributions of social programs, their causes and missions and the people who make them happen. Listening to the stories, hearing best practices, meeting the people and feeling the energy of shared commitment to social change might best be summed up in one word: humbling.

(image via www.classyawards.org)

It is a remarkable event and narrowing the list of those who might be considered for a CLASSY from the thousands of organizations whose causes are certainly worthy of consideration might be a daunting task, but thankfully for the reviewers there is a methodology. Partnering with the University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy, CLASSY has established criteria that nominated organizations have to meet if they are to be considered for an award. They provide guideposts and reflect best practices that are of benefit to any nonprofit organization. As a group of technologists who are hopefully enabling you to drive and expand your missions, the CLASSY’s and the criteria that guide the nomination and selection process give us a chance to measure ourselves and how well we are serving you.

With a baseline requirement that nominees and winners have to effect dramatic and large scale change, these organizations typically (and by mandate for a CLASSY) reflect common characteristics and practices. Winners and nominees of CLASSY awards must meet requirements that are considered by the founders and reviewers to be best practice. I wanted share some perspectives here.

Broad and effective use of data. They use data to quantify scope and scale of the constituents across geographies, model impacts of geopolitical or environmental change, manage assets and form and test hypotheses that shape their strategies. At roundCorner, we refer to that as a 360-degree view.

Measurable Metrics. The best-of-the-best set targets, and constantly measure progress against them. They have an ability to quantify and report impacts of tactics, asset deployment and other enablers, making tradeoff decisions on how to deploy or execute that improve their operations and give confidence to donors. A 360-degree view of assets, constituents, finances, and other variables make for richer and more meaningful metrics.

Leaders leverage technology to attack problems. Managing a nonprofit is becoming more digital every day and the CLASSYs recognize that enabling technologies give successful nonprofits an edge. In some cases technology enables improved asset tracking while in others it streamlines and provides self-service to constituents through portals. There are many creative applications of technology out there and with explosive growth of digital, social and mobile usage by increasingly Connected Constituents, we expect to see more at next year’s CLASSYs.

Learning organization that adapts. The best organizations use technology, data and metrics to discover or employ best practices that help them create and sustain effective models all along the continuum from need to fulfillment.

High growth potential over next three years. This year’s nominees and winners share a common characteristic; they are teams on the move. Their ambitious strategies and plans for growth separate them from the pack, and the CLASSYs recognize this as a baseline requirement for nominees. Perhaps even more than being data and metrics-driven, this is the reason leaders move to technology enabled business practices. It gives them the foundation for growth.

This year’s winners are all different reflections of these characteristics. As you look at their websites and learn about their missions you can imagine how they are leveraging these best practices. We congratulate them on their achievements and on the recognition that they so richly deserve as some of the best-of-the-best.

Active Duty & Veterans Services: The Mission Continues
Disaster Relief & Public Safety: International Medical Corps
Educational Advancement: Project Lead the Way
Environmental Protection: Climate Action Reserve
Health Services: Jhpiego
Human Rights & Social Justice: Immigration Equality
Poverty & Hunger Relief: Action Against Hunger

When you attend the CLASSYs – and I HIGHLY recommend you do – you can’t help but know that you are fortunate to be affiliated with a community so committed to improving our world, our social conscience and the lives of those in need, both two-legged and four-legged. Being a part of the CLASSYs in San Diego and hearing the stories validated for me that we at roundCorner have a fundamental responsibility to you. And that is to deliver technology that affords any nonprofit the chance to radically improve its operations and to excel at achieving its mission. I am more convinced than ever that it means we must make our applications affordable and easy to integrate, open and trustworthy, scalable and sustainable, oozing with innovation and able to adapt as you evolve and grow. That is my commitment to you.

Hopefully we’ll meet many of you in the coming year to talk shop and compare notes. If not, we will see you at next year’s CLASSY awards.

our_people_dan_lammot
Dan Lammot is President & Founding Partner of roundCorner.com, a Salesforce.com backed team of more than sixty people will work tirelessly in partnership with you to transform the way you achieve your mission. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him @roundlammot.

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