At this morning’s opening plenary, Grant Oliphant talked about the difference between a revenue model and a business model. A revenue model is how you make money, such as providing services to donors and charging a fee. A business model, on the other hand, is how you add value—for example, helping to identify community priorities and marshaling resources to advance them. All too often, he said, we talk about the former when we should be talking about the latter.
One of the key links between your revenue model and your business model is data. But what kind of data? There’s a lot of talk about data in the field, but I’ll make two points: One is that we’re unfortunately prone to treat data superstitiously, as if getting it is enough to do the job. We lean on the idea that “the numbers will speak for themselves.” No one actually says that, but all too often, we act as if we believe it. This leads to my second point: What matters most is how you use data to make meaning and allocate resources.
Community foundations are gathering ever more information about revenue models, but some of the most precious data is about the impact of grant programs and grantee outcomes. Those facts have a key role to play in informing your community foundation’s work. And not just your program work, but your operational work, your communications work, your donor engagement work, and your community leadership work. Grantee outcome figures help you understand your business model and where you add value. But they’re notoriously difficult to get and, most importantly, to use.
This afternoon at 4:30, Peter York and I will be talking about “Mapping Operations to Mission.” We invite you to come by and join a conversation about how data informs learning, why learning is so important to community foundations, what kinds of data you should be looking for from grantees, and how that research can inform not only your program work, but your operations. Those numbers are the missing link between your revenue model and your business model, and we’ll talk about how to make the connections between all the different functions of a community foundation and the mission that you pursue that’s so central to the kind of business model Grant Oliphant talked about this morning.
How are you using data within your community foundation and what are the obstacles to a more effective internal use of that information?
Chris Cardona is associate director of philanthropy for the TCC Group.