When looking for tips to improve your nonprofit’s data management strategy, there are three key areas to consider. First and foremost, the nonprofit needs to understand what its data can and cannot accomplish. The organization also needs to regularly investigate its data for unexpected insights, and it needs to be able to identify any data needs that might arise in the future.

This post will provide three tips for better nonprofit data management in 2021, and detail how to develop a stronger, long-term data management plan for any organization.

Getting the most out of your nonprofit’s data management

In general, there are 3 tips every nonprofit should consider to develop an effective data management strategy. The first tip entails the nonprofit discovering which data it needs in order for the organization to operate effectively and in a sustainable manner. In line with this, the strategy must include planning for affordable nonprofit tools and resources to ensure decision-makers can easily and consistently access valuable information.

Secondly, there will be unexpected insights and opportunities hidden in the data any nonprofit collects. This makes it important to not only construct an agile roadmap that can accommodate unforeseen changes in direction, but also to routinely investigate the organization’s data to identify these times. Data across clientele, donors, volunteers and programs can yield valuable insights and provide strong indicators for the future.

The third tip nonprofits must consider is developing a long-term data management strategy. More importantly, they must anticipate any data needs the organization might have in the future. One aspect in particular that nonprofits might expect changes in are data policies and national regulations for non-profit organizations. Changes to laws and company practices can mean some data-management systems will be more viable than others, making it even more important to choose the best tools and resources for the nonprofit early-on.

3 Tips for better nonprofit data management

In more detail, here are 3 tips for any nonprofit to create a more effective data management plan, one that prepares the organization for both optimal efficiency and long-term sustainability.

Know what the non-profit organization’s data can and cannot do for you

With so many tools and resources often spread across different platforms and providers, nonprofits face the challenge of having too much data. This can be especially true over longer periods of time. Data from one system to the next either becomes outdated. Files get corrupted, or information is incorrect in general.

Oftentimes, these issues arise with transactional data, which in short is data of past events. The problem with this data is that it can lose significance when out of its host application, such as when attempting to transfer information from one database to another. While transactional data can offer valuable insights — particularly with time-series data that helps organizations monitor change over-time — the problems when trying to synchronize information across multiple databases can be complex and expensive to navigate.

This is why nonprofits need to prepare accordingly for the limitations they will face when working with numerous tools for data gathering and analysis. Setting extremely high goals for data analysis might be at the very least counterproductive, or at worst impossible to reach. Rather, plan for a realistic, long-term data journey. Don’t expect valuable insights from every piece of data the nonprofit collects.

Investigate your nonprofit’s data for unanticipated insights

In any organization, it’s also crucial to have an agile approach to data management. This is to allow for any potential changes in direction that the agency might identify through its data analysis. Sometimes, these efforts produce unanticipated, yet actionable insights seemingly by chance, and any data management roadmap should account for this along the journey.

five people having a work meeting

Developing a flexible plan in general starts the same for every organization. First, identify the data which decision-makers need to reach their goals across clientele, donors, volunteers and programs. Decide on collection and reporting practices, both in accordance to company policies and any legal regulations in the country of operation. Then, choose the most suitable collection and reporting tools available, and finally, execute and regularly monitor data for insights and to assess the overall efficiency of your data-management system.

Forecast the future data needs of the nonprofit

The final tip for effective nonprofit data management is to always look to the future, especially in regards to advances in technology and the organization’s future data needs. Succeeding in this requires planning to adapt the agency’s data management strategy as needs develop and also as technology allows for it. Plan for changes in both, and look for reporting tools that enable the extraction of data in readable formats for advanced analytics.

The solutions will need to be tailored to the organization’s unique needs and be able to provide easy-to-access reports, real-time accuracy, and valuable data visualization. They also must ensure sensitive data is secure and accessible only to the right user groups, and that all legal requirements and obligations are satisfactorily met in the agency’s country of operation.

Information privacy, data privacy, and data protection laws can create obstacles for nonprofits. Agencies must protect all sensitive client data (on children, health, finances, legal affairs, etc). This makes staying up-to-date and preparing for changes in the regulatory landscape both a legal obligation and a vital component to any long-term data management plan. More specifically, this means nonprofits need to choose tools that are not just advanced enough to meet their needs but also flexible enough to ensure that plan’s sustainability.

Understanding the link between your work and your impact

4 co-workers clasping wrists in unity

Finally, another core goal of any data management plan is understanding the link between your work and your impact. This allows you to readily address areas of concern, and to build and prioritize successful programs. At ABCD, we strive to help nonprofits and other social good agencies accomplish this.

ABCD program evaluation software aims to maximize efficiency in case management and outcome tracking. The software is secure, highly customizable, and designed to compliment nonprofit data management strategies. It also comes with no licensing fees or additional user costs, making it perfect for even small nonprofits and those in their growth stage.

To discover more about nonprofit data management, or what ABCD software can do for you, simply contact us today to schedule a free consultation.