Contributing Author

Introducing PROGRESS, an Open Data Initiative of Social Solutions

The mission of the CLASSYs has always been to accelerate the growth of organizations driving social progress. Up until now, we’ve fulfilled that commitment through the vehicle of recognition – shining a public spotlight on the incredible work of organizations that participate in our process. Over the past few years, that recognition has positioned CLASSY Awards Winners in influential circles that have led to additional prestigious accolades and new supporter networks. This past May, we were proud to recognize and celebrate the achievements of the eight Winners at the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards Ceremony.

But this year’s process helped us realize the inherent limitations of an awards competition – while hundreds of impactful programs qualified through the evaluation process, only eight were able to walk onstage and receive an Award. Recognition was naturally limited to a select few, which limited our ability to provide it to all the organizations that deserved it.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]”In addition to an overview of an organization’s structure, financials and operations, the CLASSY Awards Nomination Profile provides a clear articulation of a specific problem, a strategy to address it, and a means for measuring impact in a consistent format. This gives it the potential to be a very helpful resource for funders.”

– Dr. Helene Gayle, President & CEO, CARE USA[/su_pullquote]

We started to rethink how we executed upon our commitment, which brought us back to growth. While recognition is good, for most organizations growth starts with having access to available capital.

We began exploring what the social investment market looks like, and what we could do to best position all of the CLASSY Awards nominees in front of institutional funders. A few months ago, we published our thoughts on this idea, considering the possibility of the CLASSY Awards becoming a discovery platform for social investments.

In the months since the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards, we’ve continued exploring this concept. Gathering critical feedback from our Leadership Council and partners, we dissected the process of how grantmakers and investors discover social programs to fund. While there are hundreds of variables affecting funding habits, our research revealed three critical pain points that face the social investment market today.

      1. Many investors have limited internal resources to gather data – 77% of foundations have less than 5 staff members.

      2. Access to performance-related data is not always available – 90% of foundations require performance related info as a critical component to making a funding decision, yet most report this as difficult to obtain from current 3rd party sources.

      3. Many investors have limited deal flow – in the Money for Good II Survey, 73% of foundations reported that their primary source of investment information was limited to their own application pools.

From our perspective, these pain points really boil down to a need for greater knowledge and transparency. We realized that sharing the information we collected through the CLASSY Awards process could be the perfect solution.

[su_spoiler title=”Broad Distribution Pool” open=”yes” icon=”chevron-circle”]More than 3,600 programs in 115 countries were evaluated during this year’s CLASSY Awards process, addressing hundreds of social challenges worldwide. The pool included a broad mix of organization types: emerging and established, large and small, nonprofits and for-profits. This represents an incredibly large pool of social sector organizations, far broader than the pipelines of most foundations and impact investors.[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Performance-Related Data” open=”yes” icon=”chevron-circle”]CLASSY Awards nominees provide comprehensive data on the performance of their programs, efficiently articulated in our simple, metrics-focused, user-intuitive profile design. This included information on the problem they’re addressing, their strategy, operations, short-term and long-term results, learning and growth – the type of information that investors are looking for to make a funding decision.[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Comprehensive Research” open=”yes” icon=”chevron-circle”]Our 4-phase evaluation process qualifies organizations based on strict criteria developed in partnership with the UPenn Center for High Impact Philanthropy, a recognized authority on analyzing social impact within and across causes. While investors don’t have the resources to do the research, we’ve already done it.[/su_spoiler]

Nonprofits and social enterprises need easier ways to access available growth capital and social investors need a better way of discovering and learning about programs to fund. And so we’re excited to introduce PROGRESS, a data platform for social solutions.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]“The CLASSY Awards basically does all the homework for social investors…The CLASSYs provides excellent value for social investors.”

– Uli Imhoff Heine, Sr. Director of Development, PCI GLOBAL[/su_pullquote]

PROGRESS can serve as a valuable research tool for social investors – foundations, impact investors, HNWI’s, philanthropy consultants – with access to performance-related data on innovative programs addressing global challenges, specifically this year’s CLASSY Awards applicants.

We launched the beta version of PROGRESS last month leveraging this past year’s pool of nominees and slight tweaks to the Leadership Council judging dashboard. During beta, we create a personalized social impact pipeline for participants, providing them access to Profiles that match their funding preferences.

If you know a grantmaker, impact investor or consultant that could benefit from discovering high-quality, effective organizations, we encourage you to reach out and let us know.


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