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3 ways to improve your nonprofit’s data management

October 11, 2022
These two nonprofit professionals are looking at graphs on their laptop that reflect their nonprofit's data.

Nonprofit organizations constantly track, monitor, measure, and analyze various data points. They use this data to guide operations, attract funding, and improve decision-making. Additionally, data is crucial to measure the success of a nonprofit and the reach of its impact. 

Nonprofits may use outcomes measurement to evaluate their impact and determine if their programs are meeting their intended goals. Data points related to the nonprofit’s strategies, programs, and goals can identify and communicate better impact stories

To leverage your nonprofit’s data in a beneficial way, you must learn how to use it properly. Read on to learn how you can efficiently manage your nonprofit’s data.

1. Data consolidation and organization

Nonprofit data is only valuable if it’s usable, and to be able to use it, you must keep it organized. Because there are so many sources of valuable data associated with your organization, your data might be stored in multiple places, contain outdated information, or host multiple entries of the same data point. 

The first step in effective data management is maintaining a hygienic database. Hygenic, or clean, data is:

  • Centralized in one, easily accessible database.
  • Frequently updated to reflect accurate information.
  • Cleaned out to remove any outdated details.
  • Identically formatted.

Ensure that your various metrics are stored and tracked in the same place and follow the same format. Over time, keeping data centralized makes it easier to combine metrics and tap into deeper insights.

Leverage a centralized data repository with some standard input and report formats so that you can see patterns across data sets and combine data points to create smarter insights for organizational decision-making and stakeholder reporting.

2. Data automation and tech tools

Pen and paper are certainly not the most efficient way to record important data. Email accounts, spreadsheets, and documents offer the convenience of digital storage, but even these solutions don’t streamline information gathering and data tracking on an ongoing basis.

Consider the data points that are commonly subject to change:

  • Contact information: Constituent relationship management (CRM) software can manage supporters’ phone numbers, home addresses, and email addresses, even as this information changes. For example, if a supporter changes the email address on their donor profile, your CRM will automatically update the address in your database without requiring any additional steps from you.
  • Fundraising progress: Instead of manually tracking the amount of money raised from a fundraising campaign, allow fundraising software to track your progress for you and notify you when you’ve hit significant fundraising milestones. Software will not only keep track of each individual donation but also compare funds raised to your overall goal.
  • Donor data: Effective donor engagement is made possible by the information you gather as you get to know your donors. Keep track of details such as their involvement histories, giving motivations, occupations, community connections, and other important information in an outreach tool. That way, you can target outreach more effectively and filter your data to find supporters who share a similar characteristic.

When it comes time to build reports or answer a question from a board member, your nonprofit leaders should be prepared to locate all the necessary data points and get the answers they need out of this data. Invest in simple-to-use outcomes data technology that can automate formerly manual data management and analysis processes, saving you time and stress.

3. Selective data tracking

Just because something can be tracked doesn’t mean it should be tracked, and an important part of data management is knowing the difference. Focus on the data that is most relevant and useful to your nonprofit instead of cluttering your database with unnecessary information.

Consider your existing data points and determine if there are ways to streamline them so that you can focus on the most important metrics and measures of success. For example, you might combine donor contact information with data about their giving history. Then, remove any information from your database that is irrelevant to your data tracking needs.

Leverage data to reach your nonprofit goals

Following best practices for your nonprofit data is only the first step in leveraging data tracking to guide your organization’s goals. As you organize, automate, and specialize your tracked data, consider the ways the data can be used to power your nonprofit’s purpose.

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