Holiday Giving: Ticking the Box or Making an Impact?

The season of giving is in full swing. The signs are all around us - store display windows, merchandise sales, our social media feeds, our mailboxes filled with both cards and catalogs, and of course, the ever-present holiday sales. The push to purchase can seem overwhelming as we make our lists and check them twice.

In addition, we see more and more consumers celebrating the season with gifts that give back. Whether making a contribution in a loved one's name, an end-of-year donation, or a gift of volunteer time, many of us are looking for gifts that have the power to make a difference in the world and create positive change. Presents that move the needle on bettering life for someone else rather than another gadget or sweater.

This type of purposeful giving is now part of our cultural DNA and becomes more predominant each year. And as we give more, we also have begun to wonder what happens after we drop the coins in the kettle, or hit 'Confirm Payment' on the screen. What is the outcome of this organization's initiative? What is the impact of that organization's work? These questions are pushing philanthropic organizations to track, measure, and connect the dots to demonstrate the impact of their donors' investments.

The result is an important transformation underway within the industry. Good intentions are no longer good enough - the point of giving is impact. And to achieve specific, measurable outcomes and lasting impact, nonprofits and foundations are shifting their giving strategies and practices, along with the technology they use to operationalize the tracking of their efforts - which allows funders unprecedented insight into their efforts to create progress and change.

From local food drives to climate change, data-driven results are becoming increasingly important for philanthropists and nonprofits alike. For years, the philanthropic industry has struggled with how to measure impact. But now, a new generation of software allows all players to set tangible goals and document milestones on the way to reaching them. Today's new breed of social investor is leveraging this technology to help them shift this industry toward more tracking, measurement, program adjustment, and overall, increased accountability and transparency into their initiatives. Greater transparency will help raise the bar throughout the entire ecosphere of giving.

This is an exciting change! It motivates many of us to re-think our charitable giving strategies. Instead of looking at donations as one-time contributions, we instead understand them as what they truly are: investments. Not in a certain stock or company, but investments in making the world a better place, for everyone.

And like any investor, we should expect to see accountability and results. Demanding such not only allows us to shine a light on the vital work being done by these organizations, but it also collectively advances the industry
as a whole toward deeper, more lasting impact.

Whether it's teaching music in schools without arts programs, bringing meals to hungry families, or helping individuals transition from incarceration with dignity - the work these organizations do is invaluable.

Now it's time to better understand the impact of this work so that we can become smarter about the investments we make in our future.

Kristin Nimsger is the Chief Executive Officer of Blackbaud's MicroEdge, a technology company that empowers giving for corporations, foundations, and today's new breed of champion for a better world.