Nonprofits are organized around data. Whether for membership and volunteer management, communications, promotion, or revenue tracking, the information we collect comprises one of our most critical assets and is central to realizing our missions. Not all data is created equal, however. This is the explanation behind many organizations’ resistance to data collection and management, which is seen as an investment of time and resources that yields little or no return.
There is an important distinction between more data and better data. What is better data? Information that allows nonprofits to create actionable changes to their workflow and structure.
Of course, data is only as good as the database used to manage it. Think of your database as your “institutional memory.” Having an excellent memory enables you to measure progress, identify new objectives, and demonstrate results to prospective donors. Data that is difficult to retrieve, stored in multiple places, and very likely to contain errors is relatively meaningless. Accurate and accessible data, however, allows organizations to quantify the effectiveness of their initiatives and adjust their methodology accordingly. It also allows you to do more with less, something a majority of nonprofits are regularly challenged to do.