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Reporting best practices: 5 tips for reporting outcomes

April 28, 2022
Three people record data on a poster, following reporting best practices.

As a nonprofit organization, you want to focus on service delivery, not on reporting. However, reporting on the work you do is critical for measuring outcomes and understanding the effectiveness of your efforts. Accurate reporting is also essential for proving your outcomes to funders and securing more funding for programs.

In this article, we’ll give you a set of five reporting best practices that you can institute to make reporting easier, more accurate, and more impactful for your organization.

1. Create a reporting strategy

The first step to optimizing your reporting processes is to come up with a clear strategy. Once you finalize your goals, timeline, and key players, you’ll be more equipped to make effective change and get results. 

When crafting your strategy, include the following elements:

  • Reporting goals that are aligned with your organizational priorities
  • The resources and software you’ll use to collect and report on data
  • The specific team members who will be involved in reporting and their exact responsibilities
  • The types of data you’ll track 
  • Important milestones to reach throughout the process

Once you’ve formulated your strategy, schedule a meeting to get your entire team on the same page. Emphasize the reasons you want to optimize your reporting practices, and be prepared to answer any questions about your plans.

2. Track the right data

A crucial part of your new reporting strategy is the data you decide to collect. Rather than tracking every single metric available to your organization, it’s important to be strategic and determine what is the right data for you to track. This can vary from nonprofit to nonprofit depending on factors like program areas and compliance requirements. 

How do you know which data to prioritize? Focus on how you want to use your data. 

If your main priority is proving sufficient impact to funders, for example, you should collect data that demonstrates that your programs are successful. This data could include the number of people who completed your programs or program satisfaction rates.

3. Specify clear reporting requirements

To ensure your data and reporting practices stay consistent, secure, and equitable, you need to provide a clear set of guidelines and requirements for your team members. Create a document that includes the following information:

  • Instructions for how to use the database
  • Confidentiality policies for team members
  • Data security protocols
  • Specific reporting formats, such as using “St.” instead of “Street” for addresses

Then, make this document easily accessible to all team members who will be involved in data collection or reporting. If possible, host these guidelines in your database itself for ease of use. 

4. Reassess and reevaluate internal reporting practices

In the months after your initial implementation of new reporting practices, don’t be afraid to consistently reevaluate what’s working well and where there’s room for improvement. Your internal processes should be able to grow with your organization’s changing needs and priorities.

Involve team members in these discussions, and ask for feedback on a regular basis. Then, make sure to update your reporting strategy, database, and internal documentation to accurately reflect any changes. 

5. Invest in effective case management software

The most impactful best practice you can put in place today is to invest in quality case management software. Software with built-in, automated reporting features will help you implement all of the other best practices we’ve covered so far.

When researching case management software solutions, look for these features to help with reporting:

  • Role-based restrictions to ensure data privacy
  • Automated workflows that cut down on manual tasks
  • Quick access to comprehensive reports and data insights

Want to learn more about best practices, how software can help you improve reporting, and what practices to avoid? Check out our reporting best practices eBook here.

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    Program Management
  • Nonprofits
  • Public agencies
  • Coordinating social services