Nesta encourages greater innovation with better targeting of events and contacts, smarter grant management and deeper insights
Big challenges need new approaches and innovative concepts to solve them. Nesta is a charity that seeks and supports new ideas to tackle the big challenges facing society today – from an ageing population and stretched public services, to the over-use of antibiotics and the role of machine learning. “We combine our knowledge, networks, funding, and skills to find and back new ideas,” explained Andrew Strachan, Head of Impact and Business Process at Nesta. “We want to increase the number of organisations we collaborate with to foster greater innovation and greater awareness.”
Nesta already collaborates with a range of partners around the world – from national governments and global technology firms to community groups and local activists – all of whom share a common goal to enrich society. “It is important that our collaborations are effective, and that organisations and governments want to deal with us again,” said Alice Casey, Senior Programme Manager at Nesta.
From multiple silos to a single platform
To support future growth, Nesta needed to take a more centralised approach to capturing and sharing information on its partners, events, and projects. As Strachan explained: “Disparate data sets were preventing our teams from having joined-up conversations about their work with our partners. We don’t want to duplicate effort or trip over each other’s toes.”
In April 2016, Nesta swapped its multiple information silos for a single platform. “Salesforce ticked all the boxes, and has the flexibility to grow with our organisation,” said Strachan. Nesta’s 180 employees use the platform to track partner relationships, grant allocations to innovators, and hundreds of events. “With Salesforce, we can access and maintain better information more quickly and encourage better interactions,” added Strachan.
Easier grant management
Ensuring grant activity is completed within agreed timescales is essential for keeping the innovation cogs turning at Nesta. With Sales Cloud, the foundation has been able to automate key steps, including approval pathways and payment reminders “We can keep on top of the status of different grants more easily, which means we can get funds out to people faster once the related activity is completed,” said Strachan. The charity plans to adopt the Salesforce1 Mobile App to help make the approvals process even more efficient by providing its people with access to information while on the move.
Once a grant has been approved, Nesta needs to ensure that organisations go on to meet specific milestones. “With Sales Cloud, we can easily see what’s overdue, what is coming up, and record plans to handle any uncertainties,” said Strachan. “We’ve also created personalised dashboards for individual managers so they can see upcoming and overdue actions, payments, and approvals.”
For a charitable organisation like Nesta, demonstrating impact and value is essential. “We must be transparent about who and what we fund,” explained Strachan. “We allocate millions of pounds worth in grants every year, and we need to continually demonstrate the great work done by the programmes we fund.”
Nesta has created custom impact measurement plans and questions within Sales Cloud to meet this need for transparency. “We can now evaluate our overall impact in relation to priority areas such as healthcare, and provide examples. In the past, our impact measurements would have been less aligned between projects, and more difficult to access and combine.” added Strachan.
Nesta can also easily extract accurate data from Sales Cloud to publish on the 360Giving open data platform, which helps the general public, partners, and trustees understand grant spending across the UK. “By us being open about our work, our teams and partners can identify new collaborations that will benefit future projects and research,” said Casey. “It helps us reflect on what we are doing and how best to maximise our resources.”
Unlocking new insights
Improving resource utilisation is particularly important when it comes to event management. Nesta organises hundreds of events every year – from workshops for creative entrepreneurs to launches of new research reports. In the past, events were managed individually, which meant there was no central record of attendees. Now everyone can not only see invitee and attendee lists, but also other essential event planning information.
“With Salesforce, we can better identify the right people to invite to the right events, which improves response and attendance rates,” said Casey. “We can also use attendance information to unlock new insights that will aid other activities.”
As charities move towards a more customer-centric way of working, these insights will prove invaluable. “The charity sector in the UK is waking up to the need for more targeted use of resources, and better measurement of impact,” said Strachan.
“With Salesforce, we can do all these things more easily, and focus on encouraging greater global innovation to improve people’s lives.”