SUMANI Trendster Blog: Seachange

Measuring, tracking, and communicating the impact of SeaChange Capital Partner’s New York Mergers, Acquisitions, and Collaboration fund.   


SUMA Net Impact’s Meeting at SeaChange Capital Partners with Jess Cavagnero (picture center).

SeaChange Capital Partners is a nonprofit merchant bank that works to enable transactions that increase the impact of nonprofits. SeaChange’s New York Merger, Acquisition and Collaboration (NYMAC) Fund, offers grants to encourage and support mergers, acquisitions, joint-ventures, and others types of formal, long-term collaborations between nonprofits predominantly serving New York City. To date, NYMAC has provided grants for more than 30 transactions in sectors including education, healthcare, community housing & development, children & youth, arts & culture, anti-poverty & social welfare, civil rights & social justice. The NYMAC Fund is led by SeaChange Partner Jess Cavagnero.

A team of five Columbia Sustainability Management students, Abbigael Foster, Lucas Piazza, Riyana Razalee, Niki Shah, Saiba Sharmeen, and Wei-Ling (Winnie) Sun, worked with Net Impact to provide pro bono services to SeaChange to help them understand the impact that NYMAC has. The team had an array of professional backgrounds including environmental consulting, brand strategy, marketing, sustainable finance, corporate sustainability, and transaction advisory. Faculty Advisor, Professor Satyajit Bose provided guidance to the team throughout the project.

The Deliverables

 The objective of the project was initially to analyze the social and financial impact of NYMAC’s grants and subsequently to develop key metrics to track in addition to developing a case study on the grantee organizations involved one of NYMAC’s transactions. Data pertaining to historical NYMAC transactions including grant letters, grantee interim progress reports, and grantee final reports was collected from SeaChange and analyzed. Unfortunately, after completing this initial data analysis, it was determined that due to the fact that the data was inconsistent, incomplete, and unquantifiable, that it was not possible to draw robust conclusions regarding NYMAC’s impact. After taking into account the time remaining to complete the project, the available data, and SeaChange’s needs and expectations, a new course of action was determined and agreed upon by all parties: the team would develop a robust set of key metrics to track in future transactions and organize them in the form of a tool, in addition to develop a case study template to allow SeaChange to easily promote the impacts of future transactions.


The Process and Results

 To determine what metrics to include in the tool, the team reviewed various frameworks including the Global Reporting Initiative, IRIS by the Global Compact Investing Network, MSCI, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. A master list of metrics was compiled and evaluated to ensure that all metrics were: relevant to SeaChange and relevant to all potential grantee organizations, regardless of industry; quantifiable; meaningful; consistent; practical; actionable; and durable. A final list of metrics was developed across four categories: program performance, governance, financial sustainability, and social sustainability. This information was organized into an excel tool in which SeaChange can enter information before and after a transaction to subsequently asses change in the specified metrics and quantify its impact. An accompanying case study template was drafted which includes sections to provide context on the transaction, in addition to presenting the quantifiable metrics and analysis information drawn from the tool.

The Challenges and Learnings

The key challenge faced when preparing the deliverables was identifying and appropriately classifying the most important metrics for SeaChange. The team quickly learned that there was a plethora of metrics that could be been tracked to measure performance across many different categories ranging from governance to social impact. The team found that brainstorming sessions, although sometimes challenging, were the best way to determine the approach and the metrics that were ultimately selected. After the selected metrics were finalized, the team acknowledged how challenging it is to standardize impact measurement across disparate organizations. Despite these challenges, the team came to fully understand the importance of establishing clear KPIs and tracking data consistently. Additionally, as many team members had not previously worked in the non-profit space and this project offered them a humbling glimpse into the sector. From funding to leadership, the challenges nonprofits face are great, but it is inspiring that they nevertheless persevere in the name of advancing their missions.

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