Today, nonprofits are emphasizing outcomes data tracking, measurement and analytics more than ever. Nonprofit organizations are tracking, monitoring, measuring and analyzing data points related to strategies, programs and impact goals to attract more funding, improve decision-making, and communicate better impact stories. That said, you don’t need to think about outcomes data strategies as all or nothing – it’s a process. Read on for our list of common outcomes data mistakes nonprofits make and how you can fix them on your journey to outcomes data management maturity.
A lot can happen in a year. If you think back to one year ago on a personal, professional, or even global level, there are probably several changes that spring to mind. Maybe there has been a marriage or a new child in your family. Maybe you’ve gotten a new job or taken on a new fulfilling hobby. Maybe your community has opened some exciting new businesses or been hit with a natural disaster. The list of changes could go on and on. No matter how life has changed for you or in the world around you over the last year, the bottom line is, things are different today.
And this is the crux of why it’s time for a new era in funding social good: we need to think about time in a different way. The reality for the people and communities impacted by your investments is different today than it was a year ago, no matter how you slice it.
Why should funders rely on outdated outcomes reporting to guide funding decisions? And, on the flip side, why shouldn’t nonprofits and public sector agencies be empowered to share up-to-date data that reflects the new and the now of their impact stories?
As Funding Increases, So Do Calls for Accountability
Giving by foundations rose to unprecedented levels in 2018. According to Giving USA, giving from foundations rose to over $75 billion in 2018, which represents roughly 18% of total charitable giving over the course of the year. This surge in foundation giving conveys the sense that funders see more opportunity than ever to invest in effecting improving people’s lives and championing change.
Yet, as giving increases, more and more leaders across the funding community are asking questions about whether their dollars and investments are having their intended impact for people, causes and communities. Everyone involved in the social good sector knows firsthand that it can be very challenging to answer these kinds of questions.
From the funder vantage point, the data they see is typically months to a year old by the time they see it. When funders ask “Are our dollars making a difference?” they often have to wait to get an answer. And even then, the answer may be hard to quantify from the data points provided.
From the nonprofit vantage point, data tracking and impact reporting are almost always manual exercises and often incredibly, painfully time-consuming. In fact, during a conversation with a contact from an education nonprofit, we learned that she had recently spent 60 hours on one report for one foundation. Imagine if this nonprofit has to report annually to 20 different funders, that’s potentially 1,200 hours diverted from programs and people to focus on data gathering, data entry, and report building.
For both sides of the social good equation and for impact reporting, time is a central issue.
The New Era of Funding Social Good is Driven by Data
The new era of funding social good must strike a better balance between the call for more detailed, up-to-date reporting and the time it takes nonprofits to compile and present meaningful information about programs, progress and impact.
The key to solving the reporting time challenges that funders and nonprofits face is a new approach to data management that dramatically increases data gathering and reporting efficiency.
At Social Solutions, we are making it easier for nonprofits to gather data throughout the case management process, from automating things that used to be manual to empowering organizations to streamline forms so that it saves everybody time without missing any critical information. Nonprofit users of our software can see a 30% reduction in time spent on data capture, a 35% reduction in time spent on data management, and a 40% reduction in time spent on reporting.
For nonprofits, having powerful yet simple-to-use software guiding the lifecycle of data and reporting is a win when it comes to time. And more time saved on data management and reporting means more time that can be spent on the front lines of social good.
When nonprofits manage data and operate more efficiently and effectively, funders win, too. Technology that helps nonprofits to streamline data gathering, data management and reporting can also give funders a window into progress toward outcomes. For example, funders can have a dashboard or portal so that they can see the data nonprofits are gathering and creating over time. This gives funders the opportunity to see more up-to-date information rather than waiting for an annual report and can function as a way to bring funders and nonprofits closer together as collaborators for impact.
For funders, investing in nonprofits with mature data strategies and technology in place can reduce the time it takes to answer the question “Are we making smart funding decisions?”
Streamlined Data, Saved Time, Increased Impact
The new era of funding social good hinges on streamlined data management powered by technology solutions, which helps to achieve several things for funders and the nonprofits they bet on:
- Data solutions that make it simpler to gather, manage and report on data related to programs, cases and more save nonprofits significant time on operations so that they can spend more time on programs and clients.
- When nonprofits use efficient data solutions, funders can gain access to relevant data much more often than annually. In this scenario, funders can see what their investments are producing on demand.
- With technology making nonprofits more efficient with their data and giving funders more information on which to base decisions, everyone wins, because more time can be devoted to achieving and increasing impact.
The new era is already here – it’s time to disrupt the social good funding model so you and the nonprofits you fund can achieve greater impact. Contact us for a conversation about how we can help your funding go further.