501Partners Does a Listening Tour of Local Nonprofits

Listening

Over the last couple of months, I have been doing a “Listening Tour” of local nonprofits to learn more about how organizations are managing their data and the challenges they face. I’ve met with staff from 10 different nonprofits, ranging in size from 5-100 staff, and representing a variety of issue areas. I’ve heard the perspectives of program and development staff, as well as those in charge of managing the data for their organizations.
With such a spread in size and maturity, it’s no surprise that each organization handles data differently and uses a variety of systems. There was a huge range in the levels of sophistication, from the small organization that was mainly paper-based and tracked constituents on an Excel spreadsheet, to the organizations using the full extent of CRM software to manage most of their enterprise-wide data functions.

There are some patterns that began to emerge, even within this small and varied sample.
Some of the common barriers to implementing a successful data system include:
• Underinvestment in technology & training
• Undervalue of non-programmatic “back office” work
• Staff often see entering information into databases as a chore that is on top of their “real work”
• High Turnover among staff

When asked what success would look like, these were some of the responses:
• Buy-in from the highest level (directors & board)
• A culture that values data
• Clear policies and procedures (and people following them)
• Communication between departments
• Having complete 360 degree view of constituents
• The ability to analyze data to know where to focus fundraising efforts

It is clear that choosing the right software/application is not the end-all-be-all solution; it must also come with an organization-wide commitment to managing the data. We will continue with the Listening Tour to hear how we can best support organizations. If you are interested in having your voice heard, please contact me at Stefanie@wp501partners.wpengine.com.

Allan Huntley

Author Allan Huntley

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