In 2008, Sheri Chaney Jones founded Measurement Resources, a business focused on using data and analytics to support government and nonprofit organizations in achieving their missions. This industry is plagued by tight resources making increased efficiency essential. Measurement Resources fills that niche by providing insights that enable their clients to make more targeted decisions that cut down on inefficiencies and increase focus on the activities that truly make a difference within the community.
When it was time to scale Measurement Resources, Jones realized she was the bottleneck. The analytics work she was doing with Measurement Resources came naturally to her. It was not a skill or way of thinking that was easily taught or passed on. For her to eliminate herself as the bottleneck and scale the company she needed software that would replace and expand upon her natural talent.
Jones began by looking at software products currently on the market. She was already well-aware of what her competitors were offering and what their limitations were. She had the vision to transform the landscape for social enterprises and there was not a single software available that would do exactly what she needed to make this vision a reality. At that moment, she knew she needed to build a custom product.
She started with some basic market research. She already had a deep understanding of her potential clients because they were the same clients she was working with through Measurement Resources. She knew exactly what she wanted to build, and she knew exactly who she wanted to build it for, so all she really needed to know was their willingness to buy. She surveyed nonprofits and government leaders and found over 55% were likely to purchase her product. That was all the validation she needed to take on the risk and create SureImpact.
Gaining Buy-In and Investments
Jones’ biggest fear was spending a significant amount of money to build a product that wouldn’t work. She faced the same fears of failure that most founders must face, but she wasn’t in it alone. she had five clients who shared and supported her vision by signing up for their first year’s licenses before she had even begun the development. She also pursued investors for the first time as a founder. When she founded Measurement Resources, she was able to bootstrap it, but SureImpact is a software and it was going to take money upfront to build it. Going for investment was difficult. There was no room for humility, she learned to make stronger statements and to own it.
When it came to choosing a partner to develop the SaaS technology behind SureImpact Jones knew she wanted to hire a firm. She knew exactly what she wanted to build, and because of that, she also knew she needed a well-rounded team dedicated to turning her vision into a reality. She didn’t have the technical know-how to screen individual developers on her own, so she began her search for product development firms and that led her to AWH.
AWH has been building complex digital products for over 25 years and they have a diverse team that is committed to putting product integrity first. They already had experience building digital products within the non-profit sector. Jones knew about their involvement with The Columbus Foundation where they built, and now maintain, The Giving Store, so she felt confident they not only knew her industry but would understand the importance of what she was trying to accomplish. They brought everything to the table, from product management to design work, to product development, so she could get everything completed with one partnership and wouldn’t have to piece together a team on her own. AWH understood her vision, so she put her trust in them to build it.
Over the years, AWH has developed robust processes that are consistent across the organization. As a consultant herself, Jones appreciated that no matter who she worked with she received the same high level of care and communication. They completed the work in piecemeal chunks that made the whole process easier for her to manage. She didn’t have to pay for the whole project upfront and the work was completed in two-week sprints that made it very clear what was being done, how much it would cost, and when it would be completed. If they said it would take three months, it took three months.
SureImpact is a SaaS platform that revolutionizes the way social sector organizations manage their operations. This platform changes the conversation from how many people did we serve to how many people were helped. For example, just because a non-profit served someone doesn’t mean that person became healthier or rose above the poverty line. It changes the conversation from what was done to what was the impact, and it makes it possible for social sector organizations to make discerning, and effective investmentsinto the community that drives real social change. SureImpact is on a trajectory to become a significant part of the ecosystem for high performing nonprofits to use as casually and easily as millennials use Uber.
Sheri Chaney Jones (Founder) phone interview. June 2020.