ow many of us hold the notion of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While this common expression is frequently used as an excuse to avoid replacing something – and I am sure we have all shared this position at some point, there are some scenarios where “well, it works” is just not good enough.
For many small non-profits, or those in their growth stage, this sentiment is not only expressed but also in some ways necessary. With limited funding, restricted resources, and specific intentions for capital many non-profits do not replace something unless it truly does not work, and even then may simply make do without it.
The purpose of this blog post is to illustrate why this mentality does not benefit the organization or the cause. Now, I am not trying to minimize the reality of the financial landscape which non-profits navigate. I am trying to present a new idea where non-profits enhance their capabilities and impact through the introduction of better tools to maximize their resources.
The tool I highlight in this article is Data Management Software.
For many organizations this type of software is placed on the backburner, behind CRMs and funding tools, or not even thought of at all. While these tools are also critical to the success of a non-profit organization, they do not have the same impact on day-to-day activities and program management.
Here are the 3 Key Reasons Your NPO Needs Data Management Software:
Consolidation of Information
Imagine one morning you are running late for work and you can’t find your shoes – because some shoes you store in the front hall closet, others in the garage on a rack, some in a storage bin in the basement, and so on. This would quickly get confusing and the inconsistency of the storage would mean you couldn’t find your shoes or you would end up not using the shoes you actually want.
Data is the same way. Storing similar types of information in different ways means it will never be organized in a clear way and that data will not be used effectively.
Now, instead of just your shoes, imagine you are a family of four – or, say, 20 – and you all choose to store your shoes in different places in your house. You might find some shoes on ceiling fans, in your plants, the dishwasher… You might also find a lot of frustration when it’s time to get everyone’s stuff together to make your way out the door. And this is what happens with data. As an organization grows, and more people are in the mix, it becomes more likely that information will be stored in different places and in different ways.
Data management software is a tool to simplify this, helping you store similar types of information in one organized place for easy use.
Confidentiality and security and legality
Sure, maybe you have a really organized Google Sheets file with all of your NPOs information, so you’re still thinking that you don’t actually need a database for your information. Did you know that Google actually owns all of the information that you add to their document suite? When you utilize a cloud service, you are subjecting your clients’ and participants’ data to the service provider’s policies and practices, and relinquishing control over their confidentiality and use.
Additionally, in Canada, many non-profits face a statutory requirement to store confidential information on Canadian soil. With a cloud based server/software (such as Google Sheets) your information could be stored anywhere in the world. Depending on your situation and the provincial legislation you’re governed by, there may be legal ramifications to using cloud-based services.
To understand the link between your work and your impact
Great, now you have all of your data in one secure database. So, what can you do with the data? With software such as ABCD, you can easily understand your data and impact through the use of Smart Reporting features which allow you to compare metrics and analyze what you truly need to know.
If your goal is to reach more female teenagers between the ages of 15-17, you can use the Smart Tools with ABCD to see if you are reaching that mark or if you need to target that demographic in a different way. You can go even further, and analyze your data to see the locations that these girls are coming from. If you know that there is a large population of teens in a specific area but few of your clients/participants are from this region you can outreach more in this area.
These are a few simple examples but the possibilities are endless!
While there are many more reasons and ways that a non-profit can benefit from data management software, these are some of the most impactful.
Now, it is important to acknowledge that not every organization can use or will benefit from using data management software, such as ABCD. In our case, the organization that ABCD is most capable of helping are organizations that run programs or any collaborative that supports an organization with programs. That being said, ABCD is highly customizable to meet the needs of almost any organization. If you are unsure if ABCD would be right for your organization, or if you would benefit from any data management software, contact us today!