Better Decisions With Data: An Interview with Roslyn Payne, Chair of UpMetrics

We interviewed Roslyn Payne, HBS ’70, Chairwoman of the Board of UpMetrics, and part of their founding team. UpMetrics is a software and services company created to help social impact organizations make decisions and tell their stories with data. We sat down with Roslyn to get an insight on how they help nonprofit organizations, many of them clients of Community Partners, the problem they set to solve, the impact of their organization, and how they are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s our conversation with her.

What inspired you to be part of the founding Board Chair of UpMetrics? 

I was driven by the need that nonprofits have for a data-centric way to make decisions. At Harvard Business School, we are trained on how to make informed decisions. To teach this important skill, HBS provides students with data, both quantitative and qualitative, in the form of a case, and engages the students in deep discussion. In the world of social enterprise and nonprofits, access to this kind of meaningful data is frequently limited. In particular, we see this reality when we engage with nonprofits who have received strategic guidance from HBSANC Community Partners. I saw an opportunity to solve this challenge with UpMetrics, where the team has designed software specifically to help social impact organizations make decisions and tell their stories with data. 

Can you expand on this problem which UpMetrics addresses for nonprofits?

Specifically, UpMetrics was created to help the social sector collect and analyze data to make informed decisions, build capacity, and tell compelling stories of impact. Relying on static data is no longer an option to solve complex societal problems. By simplifying the process and systems to collect, analyze, and  report quantitative and qualitative data in one platform, our partner organizations gain valuable insights which are needed to identify the true drivers of positive outcomes and pivot as needed. However, it does not replace the need to make leadership decisions as to how to create and execute a successful operating plan.

In addition, this kind of transparency has the potential to unlock the door to what we believe will be the ultimate connector to accelerating positive change: increased knowledge sharing across stakeholders. Our partners have found that funders have responded to the information, and thus, fundraising has also been positively impacted.

What has the impact been in the nonprofits that use your platform? 

We partner with nonprofits, foundations, impact investors, and corporations making positive change all over the world. Some of the organizations that we are partnering with in Northern California include: 49ers Academy, Teen Success,  Catholic Charities, Enterprise for Youth, Today’s Youth Matters and Silicon Valley Urban Debate League. Better to read it directly from them, here are some testimonials:

UpMetrics has helped us translate our program impact into beautiful dashboards – or the numbers – that help us tell our story. It has been so important for us to work with folks that understand the needs of our program team and who have the expertise to help us articulate our impact through data.”  – Carlo Solis, Sr. Program Manager, Enterprise For Youth

We are excited to begin this initiative which will inform decisions around program strategy and what we communicate externally to stakeholders. ”  – Billy Coleman, Executive Director, Today’s Youth Matter

Each year, Upmetrics has been able to accommodate our needs successfully in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of data access, sharing, and visualization across our organization.” – Jenny Chu, Evaluation & Learning Manager, Teen Success


How did UpMetrics deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?

UpMetrics responded in two ways. The first is that we recognized that the pandemic would hit the nonprofit sector especially hard. These organizations provide  essential services, and in the light of the pandemic, the demand for these services would be greater than ever. Yet, almost instantaneously, many traditional fundraising avenues – like events – were no longer available to them. With this mind, we provided the UpMetrics platform for free to all nonprofits in 2020. We also built new publishing and communication tools, including public Impact Profile pages designed to help nonprofits tell their stories and fundraise during this difficult time. 

Additionally, UpMetrics partnered with the Association of Supply Chain Management and the American Society of Microbiology to collect data to identify the status of supplies for COVID tests directly from over 100 medical labs. This data has been shared each week highlighting the gaps and areas of need across the United States.

This is going to be another tough year for many nonprofits. What is UpMetrics doing about it?

With the advent of the various vaccines and a change of leadership at the Federal level, we are hopeful that there will be significant improvements in both people’s health as well as economic recovery. Recognizing the strained resources that impact organizations face, UpMetrics will continue to work with nonprofits, foundations, and investors to help them use data to make decisions, allocate resources, and drive positive impact. After all, sound decisions backed by data create the flexibility and resilience nonprofits need to weather this storm and stay relevant.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel, HBS ’98