With more data available to us than ever before, it’s no wonder so many nonprofit executives and teams often find themselves stuck in the dreaded “analysis paralysis” mode. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by outcomes data management, read on for encouragement and ideas that will help you get, and stay, un-stuck.
It happened again. Your funders are asking big – and valid – outcomes-related questions that require a variety of data points and a lot of analysis to answer. You can already see where the next hours or even days of your team’s time will be spent – gathering handwritten notes, sifting through emails, combing through spreadsheets, comparing documents, and downloading reports from various systems. And after all that, you’re left hoping that the data inputs were error-free, that the integration of all the information was completed effectively, and that the answer you’ve arrived at is accurate and true.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
So. Much. Data.
Nonprofit organizations of all kinds, including those in the social sector, are increasingly prioritizing data management, including output metrics collection, outcomes measurement, and impact analysis. Some of this has been prompted by funders and donors seeking deeper insights into how their investments and gifts are being used to effect change. And some of this has come from within, where nonprofit leaders are looking at data as a powerful tool to inform decision-making and to communicate outcomes and impact stories.
The difficulty is that data management is still often viewed as something that can overwhelm a nonprofit organization’s team.
Collecting data from multiple disparate sources and then blending that information together to create a single source of truth is often a daunting, time-consuming effort. Feeling fully confident in the accuracy of data is often a point of stress for executives and those who are charged with presenting outcomes metrics in funder reports, board meetings, and marketing materials. Not to mention the pressure to ensure data compliance and security – there is more data available than ever before, and it’s critical to handle it with care.
Overwhelmed by Data Management?
All this adds up to the idea of outcomes data management putting nonprofit executives and their teams into an “analysis paralysis” mode that can become a drain on everyone’s time and energy.
Your team may be getting overwhelmed by daunting data management tasks if you hear musings like these within your organization:
- “There are so many sources of data to comb through, and some of our metrics look different depending on whether they’re marked in a spreadsheet or on paper. How do I know which result is the correct one?”
- “We haven’t been tracking that data point in a way that allows us to easily answer this funder’s particular question. Now what?”
- “I feel like I can’t spend as much time as I’d like with program participants because of how much time I have to spend pulling data and reports together.”
- “It feels like we have so many metrics we’re measuring, but no overarching results that tie everything together. I know that’s what we should be shooting for, but I’m not sure where to start to get there.”
What Would You Do with 1,440 Hours?
Luckily, you don’t have to be a scientist or a mathematician to get un-stuck from analysis paralysis or a stressful outcomes data management situation. What you do have to be is ready to take advantage of smart solutions and frameworks that can become the springboard for the next level of your data management and outcomes achievement journey.
When you harness the power of technology to support outcomes data management, you have the potential to see major productivity gains and your team can translate that into major results. As an example, many organizations using Social Solutions’ data management solutions save an average of 1,440 reporting hours each year.
Imagine what you and your team could achieve with those reclaimed hours: more personal connections could be made with program participants or constituents, more learning could be applied with time to evaluate performance and progress, more creative ideas could be explored and unleashed to achieve your goals… When you let technology manage the data, you can manage the outcomes.
And the next time you get a big question from a funder, you’ll breathe easier knowing you have the tools to get to the answer you need.
If you have been feeling like outcomes data management is overwhelming you or your team, it’s time to try something different. Contact our team today for a no-pressure conversation about how we can help you master outcomes data management.