In a world where donations drive charities, maximizing impact and minimizing overhead is not just key to a nonprofit’s credibility, but also critical to its donor retention. For nonprofits, digital transformation – an overhaul of the way they leverage information to better serve stakeholders and amplify value – is increasingly critical to survival.
A global Microsoft survey shows nonprofit donors want to see the impact of their dollars; 89% of decision-makers and 86% of donors and volunteers said it’s important to know how a charity uses its contributions. The most successful charities understand this. Leaders in the nonprofit arena have a shared success strategy; they’ve tactically planned for and invested in modern tech platforms, leveraging critical data to inform decisions, streamline organization, and promote transparency.
BlueGranite has had the honor of empowering several nonprofits with technology, including one of the nation’s largest, devoted to aiding U.S. families of children fighting life-threatening illnesses, and another, which lifts children across the globe out of poverty.
These nonprofits have turned to data to support key decisions. From expanding reach and increasing donations to uncovering impact and analyzing success, the nonprofits that flourish are driven by data.
What Does it Mean to Become Data-Driven?
A data-driven charity is one that uses data to inform and direct critical decisions. Gathering and analyzing quantifiable and pertinent information is key to the process. Rather than the old ways of doing things – turning to intuition, gut feelings, or past experiences – information analysis guides the actions and choices of the most successful nonprofit decision-makers.
For many organizations, the first step in a technology transformation begins by gathering and centralizing data that might be scattered across multiple systems. The children’s healthcare charity we partnered with once struggled with an expensive, unwieldy financial reporting system built on multiple vendors and services; others struggle with disparate budgeting or payment systems, or distributed donor lists. Other charities grapple with disparate external information, like the group alleviating childhood poverty once did; those external data challenges may include census data, education assessments, or even weather statistics.
Once a data-driven organization has a strategic method for collecting its data and assuring the quality, it can begin to surface and analyze the information, gleaning and sharing insight through reports and dashboards. These tools can quantitatively convey a broad spectrum of information – from operations transparency to programming impact.
The Benefits of Investing in Data-Driven Technology
In the nonprofit realm, every dollar saved is a dollar that amplifies impact. As uncovered in the Microsoft survey referenced earlier, decision-makers, donors, and volunteers believe strategic technology investment is also ultimately key to a charity’s impact. A well-planned technology transformation, with leadership embracing good IT governance – a strategic scaffold aimed at meeting a nonprofit’s needs in alliance with its goals – and staff and volunteers who are prepared to adopt the new solution, are critical to overall success. Once in place, a successful modern data platform can drive transparency, efficiency, and cost-savings.
The increased transparency of a data-driven charity can boost satisfaction, provide clarity, and build trust across a nonprofit’s network – from board members and corporate and major donors, to staff and volunteers. Board members can easily ensure governance policies are in compliance. Staff can accurately and quickly track budgets. Volunteers and donors can visualize the extent of their impact. The ability to visualize and share the effect of a charity’s efforts can build momentum and boost involvement.
In addition, adopting a data-driven business strategy offers great opportunity for increasing efficiency. Data can highlight potential areas for improvement that are often otherwise overlooked. This can look like identifying and removing delays from operations to amplify impact or enhancing targeted outreach to prevent wasted marketing dollars.
How does an organization successfully embrace data-driven strategies? Think big, but start small. The amount of data that can potentially be collected and analyzed can initially seem overwhelming, but with a strategic road-map the steps forward become clear. Start small; identify important factors that drive operations but aren’t currently supported by data, particularly data you already have but that may be challenging or difficult to analyze.
Utilize your existing resources. Microsoft provides help to get you started. Check out the Power BI starter kit here, to learn more about getting started with the dynamic, visually rich suite of business analytics tools; its simple interface lets you share data across your organization. Keep an eye out for upcoming BlueGranite webinars and events https://www.blue-granite.com/events, or contact us when you’re ready to create a road-map to deliver value across your charity – from those you help to those who help you.