There’s nothing more heroic than serving those who serve our country. That’s why our EveryAction Hero this month is NAVSO – the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations.
I talked to Chris Ford, Founder and CEO of NAVSO, about the inspiring work they they do for veteran-serving organizations around the country, and the world NAVSO wants to build in 2016.
"What kind of work does NAVSO do?"
Chris Ford: NAVSO serves as the backbone organization for thousands of veteran-serving organizations both public and private. We are the only organization in the country exclusively focused on improving the quality and effectiveness of veteran services.
We do that in several different ways. We sponsor research, share best practices, promote collaboration, and measure service effectiveness of nonprofits - not just fiscal health and transparency, but actually thinking about the outcomes and impacts an organization is having, and how we can measure those more effectively.
"How many organizations do you serve?"
CF: We just hit the one-year mark, and are proud to say that we’ve served or worked with nearly 800 organizations in our first year.
That mostly includes four different types of organizations - the vast majority are nonprofit service providers, but also corporations that provide services to veterans or want to improve hiring practices, philanthropic foundations that want to invest resources, and government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels that want to improve how they reach and support veterans.
"What aspect of your work are you most proud of?"
CF: Good question, I think what we’re most proud of is one of the digital tools that we offer called the Grant Map. It’s a collection of more than 21,000 grants from the last 12 years given to veteran or military-focused nonprofit organizations, and equals almost $900 million worth of grants.
The data is updated every week, and it’s amazing because it allows organizations to search and discover grantors, grant recipients, where they're located, and their areas of focus. By filtering and sorting through so much information, it helps nonprofits identify donors with a high probability of giving to causes much like their own.
Fundraising and development professionals no longer have to go through all the tedious work of searching through RFPs and spamming lists of donors - the Grant Map allows people to immediately start cultivating relationships with similarly focused donors. We actually had one major nonprofit say it was the only grant database tool that they use.
"How is online organizing and the digital space important to your work?"
CF: A strong digital presence is central to what we’re trying to accomplish at NAVSO. We came into existence because, as I traveled the country in my prior role working for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I found tremendous inefficiency and that networks were greatly limited by geography: organizations were only sharing struggles, opportunities, and successes with people in their own geographic areas.
When NAVSO started removing geographic boundaries to their networks and allowed groups connect to others virtually, all of a sudden people became more open to sharing knowledge and successes. We’ve basically created a new, virtual marketplace where veteran-serving organizations can quickly identify best practices, candidly discuss challenges, and learn from their peers to solve problems they have locally.
"What’s been your experience working with EveryAction?"
CF: For us, EveryAction was a game changer. Every other vendor we engaged could do little pieces of what we wanted, but required some expensive, complicated customization.
EveryAction came with all the tools we needed in a box, ready to go. For us, it’s not something I ever thought much about - but it’s been great having all of our engagement tools in one place, instead of having a separate website, donor database, CRM, and other tools. I just do it all in one - it’s amazing.
"What are you building in 2016?"
CF: This year, we’re focused on concrete solutions: providing better indicators of market effectiveness. Where are services having the most impact? There’s a lot of storytelling by nonprofits about impact and effectiveness, but we need better ways to measure that.
So, we’re working on exciting partnerships and adapting existing technology to do this. So that’s our big push in 2016: to identify, promote, and take to market better ways to measure impact.
Our EveryAction Hero is a monthly blog series featuring clients that inspire us. Want to talk more about the work we do for NAVSO or find out how EveryAction can help your nonprofit? Click here to email Laura!