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Classy Awards: Recognizing the Greatest Champions of Social Change

 This is a guest blog post by Dan Lammot, a past attendee of the Classy Awards, that was previously published on the roundCorner blog to convey his experience.

In 2014, I attended an event that was transformational and incredibly impactful; it was unlike anything I’d been to before. The Collaborative + Classy Awards not only inspired me, it breathed new life into the work roundCorner does on a daily basis, which is to provide nonprofits with constituent relationship management solutions so they can build relationships that last and achieve a greater impact in the world.

The Collaborative is packed with thought-provoking discussions held by social sector innovators who are eager and excited to share how they work to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. At the Classy Awards ceremony, which rounds out the three-day event, attendees see the impact nonprofit organizations are making across multiple sectors firsthand and watch them get publicly recognized for their tireless work. I spent time with like-minded individuals, learned how different organizations are tackling some of the greatest challenges, and celebrated some incredible social enterprises doing ground-breaking work—and those were just a few highlights from my overall experience.

I originally wrote my thoughts on attending the 2014 Collaborative + Classy Awards in 2014, yet revisiting these thoughts now brings me back to the excitement I felt those three days. I am thrilled to attend the event again in June.

The Collaborative + Classy Awards Difference

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. In June 2014,  Lina Pérez-Lammot and I attended the Collaborative + 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 Classy name and team. It was impressive, appreciated, and was one of the 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 stories, hearing best practices, meeting people, and feeling the energy of a shared commitment to social change might best be summed up in one word: humbling.

To narrow the list of those considered for a Classy Award 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. Classy established criteria, originally developed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy, that nominated organizations have to meet if they are to be considered for an award.

As a group of technologists at roundCorner who are hopefully enabling you to drive and expand your missions, the Classy Awards and the criteria that guide the nomination and selection process give us a chance to measure ourselves and how well we are serving our audience.

With a baseline requirement that nominees and winners have to effect dramatic and large-scale change, these organizations typically reflect common characteristics and practices. I want to share some perspectives here, including what I learned about innovative organizations.

At the Collaborative + Classy Awards, I learned socially innovative organizations:

Make Broad and Effective Use of Data

Nominees and Winners of Classy Awards use data to quantify the scope and scale of their constituents across geographies, model the impact 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.

Use Measurable Metrics

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

Leverage Technology to Attack Problems

Managing a nonprofit is becoming more digital every day and the Classy Awards 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 the explosive growth of digital, social, and mobile usage by increasingly connected constituents, we expect to see even more at the next Classy Awards.

Are Learning Organizations That Adapt

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.

Have High Growth Potential Over the Next Three Years

This year’s nominees and winners will share another common characteristic; they are teams on the move. Their ambitious strategies and plans for growth separate them from the pack, and the Classy Awards 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.

When you attend the Collaborative + Classy Awards—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 Classy Awards 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.

Dan Lammot is the President and Founding Partner of roundCorner, a Salesforce.com backed team who works tirelessly with nonprofit organizations to transform the way they achieve their mission. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him @roundlammot.

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