Nonprofits in 2021 need wide ranging tools and resources for effective data management. They need systems to record client and case data, to manage and track activities, analyze data, and understand as well as report on their impact.

To do this, nonprofits often have to use many different tools from various third-party providers to operate both efficiently and in accordance with data policies and local regulations. This post will introduce the challenge this presents in 2021, and will focus on the tools and resources nonprofits are now using for better data management.

Data analytics, charts, the cloud, and security: digital tools and resources for nonprofits

In 2021, nonprofits have a wide range of effective database management software (DBMS) readily accessible, and the available tools and resources are constantly evolving. Finding the best combination of technology and services, however, can sometimes pose a challenge. This is especially true for small to medium size nonprofits, and for those in their growth stage.

data on a laptop

Nonprofits need to optimize data analysis and reporting, insight mapping and projection, and database management and security. More consequently, these agencies need to manage these levels of the organization in practice and in adherence to their budget, their data policies, and the data regulations in their country of operation. It’s also necessary to take into account the overall funding model for the non-profit organization.

These levels of establishing the nonprofit are essential in today’s world to satisfy the organization’s vision. To reach this, the agency needs to firstly be able to ascertain their most successful programs. It also has to establish more collaborative communication with donors, partners, and clients; and it needs better avenues to identify future fundraising campaigns. Thankfully, there is a wealth of tools and resources for nonprofits to accomplish these tasks.

The tools and resources nonprofits need in 2021

When the efficiency of today’s nonprofits relies heavily on software technology, the data management systems organizations utilize need to be highly manageable, insightful, and, most importantly, secure. Some tools and CRMs offer considerably more advantages than others, but ultimately it depends on the model of the nonprofit, what stage it has reached, and its available resources. Here is a list of the main areas nonprofits must consider in data management, including some examples of the DBMS tools and additional resources available in 2021.

For data collection and analysis

The first valuable tools for nonprofit data management include software which allows organizations to gather and analyze data. Fortunately, oftentimes in social good agencies this does not involve massive, unmanageable amounts of data. Rather, it’s more about gathering only the necessary data and ensuring it’s accessible at the right time and for the right people.

google analytics on a computer screen

In the past, transforming raw data such as this into actionable insight reports might require hiring a data scientist. Today’s advanced analysis tools thankfully provide the same techniques and capabilities, without the extra expense.

Look for example to Google Analytics. Google provides data collection and analysis about the people who connect digitally with organizations of all kinds and sizes. There is a free version of the software, and there is Google Analytics 360 for large companies. Access the free version for services like Google AdSense, Google Ads, and the Google Search Console to help improve rankings on a website or to advertise on other channels. The commercial version expands on all these features to provide a more complete and sophisticated approach to data analytics.

Advanced approaches to data analysis

More advanced approaches to data analytics for nonprofits comprise the following.

  • Descriptive analytics entails analyzing historical data to evaluate how an agency changes over time. Changes might include, for example: annual budgets, year-to-year revenue, client outreach and average amounts of incoming donations or funding.
  • Diagnostic analytics is the approach to data analysis that relies on understanding why certain events took place, and finding answers through data drilling, discovery, mining, and correlations. This is a particularly useful approach to outcome and impact evaluation.
  • Predictive analytics aim to generate actionable predictions about the future through statistical algorithms, machine learning, and the application of historical data.
  • Prescriptive analytics is a much more recent approach to data analysis, aiming to recommend priority actions rather than to provide insights on possible future events. This cutting-edge approach involves utilizing artificial intelligence to analyze historical data and make suggestions from there, and its algorithms can automatically adjust to changing conditions.

For insight mapping and projection

Another valuable resource for nonprofit data management is software for mapping and projecting actionable insights. The standard approach to this is through basic charts of databases and spreadsheets. With today’s data management technology, however, it’s now possible to transform data insights into more informative and valuable visualizations.

The primary goal here is to utilize accurate, easy-to-present and up-to-date analyses which are simple, quick, and effective, all while keeping this easily managed in-house.

A free example of data management software for this is Google Charts, a platform for organizations to develop interactive charts and graphs based on the data input. The service is both intuitive and useful, and it provides scatter charts, area charts, histograms and tree maps to generate stronger reports and forecasts.

For cloud-based data management

Depending on the nonprofit’s country of operation and the local regulations on data privacy and governance, cloud-based data management may or may not be a viable solution. How organizations manage personal data is an especially sensitive concern on a global scale in today’s world, and data practices are under rapidly evolving and intense scrutiny.

lights symbolizing data flow

In many countries, including Canada, nonprofits face strict regulations that restrict data storage to only within the country / territory or region of origin. Nonprofits thus must keep up with the regulations in areas where they operate, and keeping this in mind is crucial when choosing the best data management solutions.

The right solution will involve a data management system tailored around the nonprofit’s own unique needs. These might include managing area-specific operations, donors, clientele, and efforts in fundraising and outreach. Then the system needs functions to allow, grant, or restrict access to / from individual user groups to ensure adherence to all data privacy practices and that all sensitive data is secure when input into the system. Algorithms from there can produce highly advanced analytics, without users needing any SQL or database languages.

For vital data protection and security

Finally, with the ever evolving regulatory landscape and obligations for nonprofits, from Australia and New Zealand to Canada, the UK and the US, data protection and security is vital. Any client data that involves children, health, finances and legal affairs often falls under strict regulations and must be safeguarded from data leaks through security breaches or data mismanagement.

The first step to creating a data protection and security plan is merging all the data the organization currently possesses. There are various categories of data discovery tools for this, as detailed by ISACA Journal. When centralized data stores are established and the data is prepared for analysis, then plans need to revolve around the protection and security of that data.

Numerous security tools exist for this, including: password managers, encryption tools, and network monitors. These help to prevent unauthorized access to the system, to ensure all sensitive data is protected both during storage and transmitting, and to detect any possible intrusions to the server or database.

Finding the right tools and resources for your non-profit organization

At ABCD (A Better Community Database), we understand very well all of the moving parts that go into non-profit data management in 2021. We also recognize that social good initiatives can benefit from a data system that is flexible, intuitive, and robust. This is why we developed our open-source program evaluation software for when all your data is secure in one database.

Our goal: to help nonprofits and other social good orgs to easily and accurately track, test, evaluate and report on their impact. With customizable solutions, ABCD software can meet a wide range of unique needs agencies might have. The software is intuitive, and most importantly, secure. All data lives on a server designated by you.

If you’d like to learn more about tools and resources for data management, or to discover if ABCD might be useful for your organization, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.