Workforce systems are reforming to provide initiatives that go beyond providing direct services to individual jobseekers and are striving to transform to effectively support employers and the workforce.  The Workforce Development organization’s role is to be the convener and foster collaboration with the many key stakeholders within the community. This will take resources beyond the Federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds. The emerging role of a workforce development entity will require diverse resources that include state and local grants, corporate and association sponsorships, foundation grants and philanthropic investments. Each of these funding sources require strong solutions to buy-in and strong performance data to stay in. This blog will share lessons learned for using data to attract and retain funders.

Lesson one:  Most funders do not understand the complexity of a workforce development organization, so a simple visual framework is important.

For funders, the framework provides a common vocabulary and structure that can be used to better coordinate efforts.  It also provides the mechanism for accountability of their goals by outlining the appropriate scale and focus of measurement. Funders want to understand their return on investment (ROI) so clear, yet obtainable outputs and outcomes should be established.

As you are establishing this framework, you want the funder to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a component in the framework that addresses your priorities?
  • Is there alignment with other funders which increases effectiveness and avoids duplication of efforts?
  • Which outcomes would you like to quantify for your portfolio?
  • What metrics are most helpful for understanding progress?

Funders can easily see their role and impact if these questions are consistent within the framework.

Lesson two: Prior to funding implementation, identify agreed upon data sources and reasonable timelines that inform performance.

Performance data should be more than a static number; for example, providing weekly traffic numbers within a job center indicates your job seeker interactions, but does not inform your effectiveness. More relevant and dynamic data would be the number of job seekers placed in an occupation per week. Data presentation should go beyond the quantitative data to include the story behind the data that indicates contributing and restricting factors to success.

Lesson three:  Promote funder engagement through interactions.

Given the collaborative nature of workforce development, engagement can be achieved through the Investment in a case management system that provides equal access to share data, customize and aggregate surveys, and enhanced communications promoting community partnerships through mutual referrals.

Check out Clear Impact Compyle for an example of a case management system that offers this functionality.

Lesson four:  Demonstrate to your funders that you consistently use quality data to design and improve programs and services.

Your workforce organization is committed to data-driven decision making.  When attracting and retaining funders, clear data presentations that simplify the path to decisions and organizational pivots that are well thought out rather than ad-hoc are necessary. Data presentation should be easy to read and analyze but also has the flexibility to segment by different demographics for trend and pattern analysis.

Check out Clear Impact Scorecard for an example of a data visualization and reporting system that offers this functionality.

Funders are the backbone of any organization. The resources available determine the depth of an organizational focus and the breath of services and customers. Successful attraction and retention of funders comes down to how well your workforce development entity implements a measurement strategy.  Workforce data comes from multiple sources, adding a complexity of measurement. A way to address this challenge is to utilize a common system where data entry is standardized and consistent.  All funders receive the same data and can easily identify how their individual contributions support the collective.

About the author:

Ellie GilesDr. Ellie Giles served as the first CEO of WorkSource Montgomery, Inc. (WSM) WSM is a talent development non-profit connecting employers and job seekers.  WSM works with current employers and new employers to support their talent needs.  Additionally, WSM creates strong talent pipelines for jobs of the future by establishing career pathways through collaboration with strong and relevant training and community resources. Prior to this position, Dr. Giles was the Director of Operations for Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC), the first public/private economic development agency in Montgomery County.