- Coordinating social services
- Public agencies
- Case Management
- Human services
Nonprofit organizations and public agencies are committed to helping their communities. In order to provide the best possible support, they must collect and interpret meaningful data about those communities and their ongoing needs. This allows organizations to better understand how their programs impact the communities they serve and how best to continue their efforts.
Taking control of their data allows organizations to make more informed program decisions, effectively demonstrate their impact to funders and donors, meet compliance requirements, and ultimately create more impact within their community. However, many organizations face challenges when it comes to managing their data and reporting. Often, they are utilizing disparate systems to track program data with many different people entering information without a standardized and streamlined process, leading to data silos. To optimize data collection and interpretation, organizations should seek to eliminate data silos, which we’ll explain how to do in this guide.
What are data silos?
Data silos form when you store information in separate locations rather than utilizing a system that allows you to store data in one place. Sometimes, organizations create data silos on purpose to ensure unrelated information is kept separate to reduce confusion. In other cases, data silos are formed by utilizing disparate systems to track information or case notes, or even using the wrong case management solution. Let’s look at some examples:
Intentional data silo:Storing your case management notes in a separate document or system from your donor information creates an intentional data silo. Beneficiary data has nothing to do with your donors, so keeping them separate can actually help your organization stay more organized and prevent potential data privacy leaks.
Unintentional data silo:Storing your organization's program notes in a separate system from your case records creates an unintentional, negative data silo. For example, you might utilize a Google Sheet to take attendance for a program where clients receive help with their resumes. However, the data collected through this spreadsheet is not connected to each client’s case file. This would ultimately lead to case managers being unsure whether clients they are working with have attended your resume-building workshop. They would need to add an extra step in their workflow to look at each client’s case file and the attendance spreadsheet. Not only does this create a data silo, but it also leads to inefficiencies in workflow.
Eliminating these types of data silos makes service delivery smoother and more efficient. In addition, your organization can cut down on hours of manual work spent compiling all of your data into one place.
How can avoiding data silos help you demonstrate impact?
There are a lot of benefits to your organization avoiding data silos. But the biggest, most important reason is that it will help you easily and effectively demonstrate impact. Here are four ways controlling your data can help:
Easier reporting:If your organization has done the work to eliminate data silos within your system, it will lead to easier reporting. Having maximum control of your data means when the time comes to demonstrate your impact to funders and donors, you know exactly what information you have, where to find it, and you can easily pull reports.
Better program outcomes:Eliminating data silos means your staff can do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, allowing you to grow your programs and serve more clients. Plus, if you can easily analyze your data, you can identify gaps and areas for improvement to offer better programming to your community.
Meet compliance:It’s no secret that having clean data makes it easier to meet compliance. If you are tracking consistent data, all in one system, you can easily find the specific information funders are looking for. Plus, properly storing your data will lead to a more secure database in the long term.
Secure more funding:If your organization can easily generate reports, improve programming through data, and meet compliance requirements, you will ultimately be able to demonstrate your impact and secure more funding.
How can the right case management solution help you avoid data silos?
Implementing the right case management solution is key to helping your organization avoid data silos. Having the proper technology will ensure your success in several ways:
Tracking, reporting, and communication—all in one place:First and foremost, the right case management solution will help your organization manage intake, workflows, and reporting in the same system.
- Utilizing intake forms helps eliminate manual data entry when onboarding new clients.
- Built-in tools help you record case notes, answer service requests, flag issues, send and receive emails, set reminders for tasks, and more.
- Robust reporting tools allow your organization to visualize trends and evaluate data through reporting dashboards along with report templates to make generating reports a breeze.
A user-friendly interface leads to staff adoption:Utilizing a case management solution with an easy-to-use interface will make staff training and implementation easy, boosting your team’s confidence and leading to better use of the system. Plus, data stored in your case management solution is made available to everyone working on a particular case, making for easy collaboration across teams and departments.
Elimination of manual processes decreases human error:Finally, implementing a case management solution will help your team streamline processes and workflows, increasing staff efficiency. With built-in forms, field requirements, and data validation, you can ensure only the important information is being captured in a consistent format. Plus, automated user audits provide virtual breadcrumbs of user activity, so you can easily track errors to the source.
Start eliminating data silos today!
Software solutions designed for nonprofits and public agencies empower you to take control of your data and prevent data silos. This helps your organization save time otherwise spent compiling data from two separate places, but it also helps you better visualize and demonstrate the impact that you have on the community.
Interested in learning more about how you can demonstrate your impact through improved data management and reporting practices? Download our free guide “Reporting best practices: From outdated to modern reporting” to get started today!