Tech + Data

Speaking the Language of Giving to Achieve the SDGs

By Jamie Serino, Director of Marketing, Blackbaud’s Corporate and Foundation Solutions

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a wave of change where more and more people are considering the problems facing our world, and instead of saying, “Who’s going to fix this?” they’re saying, “Let’s fix this!” This attitude is converging with – and fueled by – a continual increase in the availability of tools that are right at our fingertips, giving more people and organizations the ability to step up and make a difference. In addition, our ability to share information and to connect, communicate and collaborate with other people continues to become easier. And with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the North Star for building a better world, everyone who wants to play a role in fixing things has a guide to follow.

This is the central idea, along with years of research and conversations with thousands of industry practitioners, that drove Blackbaud to build a common language around giving into our technology, Blackbaud Outcomes.  A cloud-based solution, Blackbaud Outcomes helps organizations track and measure the outcomes of their grantmaking and giving programs.  This need for a common language was the message that our product team heard most frequently from foundations and corporations – they wanted to make it easier to communicate with their grant recipients and with each other around shared goals. That feedback was built into our technology, and the resulting shared outcomes taxonomy now empowers funders and nonprofits to agree on how to measure progress and to truly understand the impact they are making. In addition, it helps both funders and nonprofits tell their success stories using data, results and a shared language that other organizations can easily understand.

We recently took things one step further and mapped the SDGs to the Blackbaud Outcomes taxonomy. Our software that seeks to create collaboration and alignment between funders and grant recipients now gives funders the ability to be aligned with the worldwide movement that the SDGs foster. And it’s interesting to note, we’re finding that many funders, especially those supporting programs in the US and other high income countries, may not even realize that the work they are doing already feeds into the SDG framework. Whether you’re already aligned or you’re working on aligning, there is a sense of unity, focus and a, “Let’s fix this!” attitude when you can plug into the SDGs progress tracking in a standardized way.

For instance, if the focus of your work aligns with Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, you can map your outcomes to specific SDG targets, such as Target 3.1: By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. By plugging into that goal and that specific target and by tracking efforts and progress against it, you’ll not only better understand what sort of impact you’re making, but you’ll also know that you’re contributing to a worldwide movement in a defined, measurable way.

In addition to feeling a sense of connectedness to those working to achieve the same mission, having a common language allows for increased and better collaboration. I hear many people in the social good sector say that there is still too much siloed work happening. This leads to duplicative efforts, lack of information sharing and repeating of missteps. The SDGs offer a platform for organizations to come together, breaking down siloes within the social sector and across the other sectors involved in this movement.

Many organizations are still in the early stages of aligning their work with the SDGs, some at the same time as they are shifting their mindsets and cultures toward outcomes measurement in general. It may seem out of reach or overwhelming. Organizations that we’ve seen have success in shifting from traditional philanthropy, or checkbook philanthropy, to more targeted, outcomes-focused, results-based giving all did the same thing to get there – they took the first step. When we consider that the SDGs provide the ready-made framework for everyone to rally around and say, “Let’s fix this!” and that there is technology to help ensure that everyone is aligned and speaking the same language of giving, you begin to see the path to progress becoming clearer.

This post is part of the “SDG Solutions” series hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Global Daily, and +SocialGood to raise awareness of ways the international community can advance, and is advancing, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. As the international community prepares to gather at the UN for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development from July 10-19, this series will share ideas and examples of action. Previous posts in the series can be found here.

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