Technology Consultant

Overview: The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) and YouthTruth (an initiative of CEP) seek near-term consulting advice on how we can better utilize technology to improve our product offerings, data processing, and survey processes and to envision how our tech team structure can help us meet our future needs.

Summary

We are seeking a consultant who will audit our current tech systems and approach to help us think about the quality and structure of what we’ve built to date and to provide guidance about what’s possible for the future. One key deliverable would be a set of observations and recommendations about our current systems, and a second deliverable would be a roadmap or potential scenarios for the future.

Background on the Need

The work of CEP and YouthTruth increasingly depends on well-functioning technology and data management systems to drive efficiency, quality, and scale in our work to provide survey-based assessments to funders and school districts. To collect, process, and display results of tens of thousands of surveys, we rely on:

  • A highly customized use of a survey platform purchased/licensed from Qualtrics
  • A home-grown and managed codebase for data management, processing, and analysis (Python)
  • A bespoke, consultant-supported online reporting portal (Ruby and Javascript)

As we continue to grow the number of surveys, amount of data, and types of engagements we execute, we have become more reliant on these systems to create efficiency in our work and create engagement with our clients. To do so, we have relied increasingly on external consultants to supplement the skills of our small staff.

The Project

We are seeking a consultant who would get to know our tech systems to help us think about the quality and structure of what we’ve built to date and to provide guidance about what’s possible for the future.

  1. Review the ways in which we use our current survey platform, understand our challenges and needs for surveying, and advise on opportunities for further efficiency, including the potential to build our own system (Currently: Qualtrics with an API that we engage using Python code)
  2. Review our current data storage and structure and it’s appropriateness for the type of work we’re doing and the growth we expect; is it well positioned for the future? (Currently: SQL, managed by a combination of in-house and consulting help)
  3. Review the processes we’ve created to automate data processing and advise us on opportunities for future automation, potentially using languages or approaches with which we are currently unfamiliar (Currently: primarily Python, managed in-house)
  4. Review how we manage our Online Reporting System (ORS), the data visualization interface we use to deliver reports to clients and provide advice on how we could best approach maintenance and evolution of that system. Related: should we be developing the capability to code for the ORS in-house? (Currently: mostly Ruby, JavaScript managed by contractors)
  5. With this understanding, review the current level of connection across those platforms and consider opportunities to move toward to one continuous, seamless system.

Alongside that work, we would like this consultant to help us reflect on the structure, skills, and leadership to best manage this work in the future:

  1. How do other organizations of similar size to CEP/YT structure their technology leadership and execution, including mechanisms to keep up to date on new tools or approaches?
  2. Are there gaps in the skills and roles on our staff that would be helpful to fill? How might we benefit from tech expertise or guidance on our board of directors and/or advisory boards?
  3. Are we using consultants well? How could we use them better?
  4. How should we structure tech leadership in an organization that uses the same platforms across teams but with slightly different approaches and needs, including reliance on contractors versus staff, etc.

RFP Process

We aim to begin this work in Q3 2021 and envision a two-stage process for selecting this consultant.

We invite you or your firm to submit an initial Letter of Inquiry to us by July 16. Send your proposals to Alyse d’Amico (alysed@cep.org).

LOI Stage

Interested parties should prepare a brief Letter of Inquiry that describes:

  • The activities you anticipate using to address these needs, including what you would need from CEP/YT
  • The deliverables you would propose
  • A rough sense of timeline and potential cost (we recognize this could change in the second phase as you learn more about our needs)
  • Your qualifications to execute this work well, including examples of any similar work
  • How you or your organization approaches diversity, equity, and inclusion. (CEP is committed to values of diversity, equity, and inclusion as described in Goal 2 of this document. Understanding the diversity of our vendors is an important component of this goal, and should you be selected for a final RFP we would ask you to provide demographics (i.e., race and ethnicity and gender) of your organization’s leadership.

As you write your letter of inquiry, we would be happy to have brief conversations with interested parties about our work.

Selection Stage

We will select a small group of finalists based on the Letter of Inquiry. At that point, we would invite a conversation with each finalist to answer deeper questions about our work or systems to allow for finalists to develop a full proposal.

With this information, we will then ask you to prepare a formal proposal, detailing activities, cost, timeline, deliverables, etc. We will conduct final interviews based on those proposals and select a partner based on those interviews.

Organizational Background

The Center for Effective Philanthropy is a 501(c)(3) organization focused on the development of data and insight to enable higher‐performing funders. CEP’s mission is to provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness — and as a result, their intended impact. This mission is driven by the belief that more effective philanthropic funders can have a profoundly positive impact on nonprofit organizations and the people and communities they serve. Our belief is that when philanthropic funders use CEP’s resources and insights, they can better understand their work and more effectively support the leaders and organizations working toward meaningful change.

CEP pursues its overarching goal of enabling higher‐performing funders through several key areas of work: research, assessment and advisory services, and programming and external relations. CEP develops highly regarded research reports, offers assessment tools and customized engagements, and shares information about philanthropic effectiveness through online and “live” programming, our blog, and podcast. Funded by a mix of grants and earned revenue, CEP serves over 150 clients each year, mostly located in the United States with some overseas clients.

YouthTruth, an initiative of CEP, harnesses student perceptions to help educators and education funders accelerate improvements. Through our validated survey instruments and tailored advisory services, we partner with schools, districts, states, and education funders to enhance learning for all students.

We believe, and research shows, that student and stakeholder voice matters. We equip education leaders to integrate insights from their students and stakeholders into planning and improvement efforts, partnering with 150 school system partners and creating nearly 2,000 reports synthesizing their stakeholders’ feedback annually. In addition, YouthTruth publishes guidebooks and reports analyzing and sharing what we’re learning nationally from hundreds of thousands of students. YouthTruth is funded through a mix of grants and earned revenue and is growing rapidly, averaging 40 percent year over year growth in earned revenue for the past six years. Since 2008, we have surveyed over 1.8 million students and over 300,000 family and staff members across 39 states.

CEP and YouthTruth together have approximately 50 employees located primarily in Massachusetts and California.

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