Do's and Don'ts of Data for Nonprofits

Data... IT'S POWERFUL!   It is the driving force for strategic planning and reporting for management.  It can tell you which fundraising campaigns are the most profitable, what months produce the highest donation levels, who your top donors are, which donors need additional cultivation steps, which business industries need engagement plans, what sponsorships, major gifts and grants are in the pipeline and at what stage and even forecasting (yes that's a sales term but very applicable to nonprofits as well) and program outcomes analysis.  Information such as this is critical to strategic management at the organizational level.

Yet, many nonprofits do not have any data strategy in place.  Individual departments plan for their software selection without regard for the organization's data strategy because there isn't one.  The software meets the needs of the individual department's business process but does not contribute to a cohesive data strategy.  Some departments may be keeping track of data on spreadsheet and (shudder) even on paper. This leads to data silos.

  

 

Data silos are collections of data that produce poor reporting results because the data needed for reporting and analysis are in separate systems.  Often integration between two systems is an afterthought which becomes difficult to implement and cumbersome to manage. Having data silos at your organization can jeopardize executive decision making and leave leave your organization unprepared for the future. 

Another major problem encountered almost always without a data strategy is duplicate, time-consuming, error prone data entry which even further complicates the ability for reporting and analysis needed for a strategic view of the organization's past, current, and future health and goals.

A more subtle outcome of having data silos at your organization is that it isolates departments and teams.  This can have the negative effect of data hoarding by individual team members or departments and even further reduce the ability to make an organization-wide strategic data analysis.

Here is an example of a scenario at a nonprofit.  The grant writer keeps track of grants and deadlines on a spreadsheet.  The accounting department uses an accounting software package.  The online fundraising is standalone and does not integrate with the customer relationship managment (CRM) software. Tracking and management of volunteers is done on paper with no attention to rolling up volunteer hours and costs that are crucial to many nonprofits.  Events and campaigns are tracked in an online event management software but fundraising campaign tracking is available only from the accounting system. Potential donors signing up for a newsletter come in to email only.  Marketing uses an email marking platform that produces beautiful emails but has no or limited integration with the organizations CRM.

So, what to do?  Develop an organizational data strategy.  Implement a data strategy that centralizes as much data as possible and has the ability to connect and integrate to any separate systems.  Some software platforms have the ability to view data that actually resides in a separate system (connection) and some have the ability to push and pull data (sync) from a separate system (integration).  Look for software solutions that provide automation for time-saving, streamlined data management.  Look for software solutions that provide data validation to make sure that appropriate data is entered into fields. Approve software purchase based on whether the purchase meets not only the departmental needs but also addresses the organizational needs.  Ensure that business processes that are manual or isolated (paper, spreadsheet, etc.) are brought into the data strategy with replacement solutions.

One of the most robust platforms (in my opinion THE most robust platform) available on the market today that meets these requirements is Salesforce Non Profit Cloud.  And you're thinking "Wow that's going to cost a lot".  Maybe not.  Through Salesforce.org's Power of Us program, qualified 501(c)3 organizations are approved for a donation of 10 free licenses to the Salesforce Non Profit Cloud with additional licenses significantly reduced.  Should you bring Salesforce to your organization because of that?  NO, bring Salesforce to your organization because you need a system that can handle your organizational data strategy needs.

 

 

Call Webfactory Solutions today to schedule an online demo of this outstanding product.  Webfactory Solutions is a Salesforce Registered Partner helping clients leverage the Salesforce platform for revenue growth and strategic management.  We are a boutique consulting firm offering personalized implementation throughout your project... from planning through training, deployment and support.

Read more about the eligibility requirements for the Power of Us program.  Eligibility Guidelines