Improving Data Management to Maximize Social Impact - Zak Kaufman of Vera Solutions


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With 78 employees working across five offices on five continents, Vera Solutions is a social enterprise and B Corp that helps for-profit and nonprofit organizations measure and track their impact, and Founder and CEO Zak Kaufman is here to tell us more about the change that they make.

While working in monitoring and evaluation for an organization in South Africa called Grassroot Soccer, Zak and his team were faced with data systems that couldn’t really keep up with the needs of the organization, especially with Grassroot Soccer just being given a huge grant to scale up their operations. To solve this, Zak had an idea, one that was unthought of at the time, and this was to migrate their systems to Salesforce, a CRM system. This turned out to be a brilliant solution as this then solved their data problems and allowed them to collect and analyze their impact data in a more efficient way.

Quickly realizing the significance of what they were doing, Zak and two of his colleagues sat down with Grassroot Soccer’s CEO and COO, and they came to an agreement that they would leave Grassroot Soccer to form Vera Solutions. After a few years, Zak was faced with another major issue: both his co-founders leaving. Thankfully, the company survived it which, in part, Zak attributes to Vera Solutions having a strong “ikigai.”

Zak also talks about the four pillars of good monitoring and evaluation, which they wrote an article about on Salesforce. He also shares his formula for measuring impact data, and speaking of impact, one of the main products or services of Vera Solutions is Amp Impact, which helps clients measure their impact data at the portfolio level and also portfolio data to manage the entire lifecycle of an organization’s projects.

Despite the notion that charities and foundations would be hard to sell their services to with their often limited budget, these organizations understood the value of what Vera Solutions was offering, and so the need was there. The demand slowly started to increase, and they would hire one employee after another. Today, with their 78-strong team, Vera Solutions has worked with over 325 organizations, and their clients range from social enterprises to impact investors to nonprofit organizations and more.

In 10 years, Zak hopes to live in a world with a social sector that is not only accountable, transparent, and data-informed, but also closer to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Zak’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “There's a little bit of a perspective that, ‘Well, we're a charity, therefore we don't have money to spend on these kinds of things,’ and I think that that kind of mindset holds the social sector back, and it's a mindset that's going away.” (11:23)
  • “We're also seeing the private sector starting to get more interested in social impact and environmental impact.” (11:50)
  • “We had the privilege to see the sector and the space from a lot of different angles and start to see the diversity of needs that are out there but also the commonality of needs across different organizations.” (13:10)
  • “Amp Impact isn't trying to be 100% of what everybody needs or really 100% of what anybody needs. It's trying to be 60-70% of what everybody needs, and the remaining 30-40%, that comes through configuration of the Salesforce platform.” (27:04)
  • “If you can execute well and you've got, really, a purpose that aligns with what you're good at, what you're passionate about, and what the world needs, I think you're quite set up for success.” (30:59)
  • “I do think it's super important to just have the right people around the table from the early days and continue to ma
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