Charts, graphs, and financial reports may seem like they don’t say much to those outside of the accounting and finance department. But with the right data and trend analysis, the information contained in these reports can inform and improve constituent communications.
The Tip of the Iceberg
It’s an old cliché, but a good one—the tip of the iceberg. If you imagine an iceberg, you can only see the tip of it. The majority of the iceberg is underwater but it’s probably the more important part.
The same goes for your organization. The data that you can easily find is the “tip of the iceberg” and readily available. And it’s usually what your team uses to base their decisions.
However, what’s going on underneath the surface is often the more valuable information. Getting to it is the challenging part.
How Nonprofits Can Leverage Data
Many organizations only dig at the surface level into their data. They run basic financial reports to gauge how fiscally solvent an organization is, or which programs require more funding and leave it at that. But the data that can be used to assess funding can also be used to dig deeper into issues such as program demand, program use, and more.
Each nonprofit is unique and tracks different data. But, in general, nonprofits can mine their data to find information to help them improve programs, improve donor communications, and ensure transparency.
Look beyond your existing technology for additional data. Although your current accounting system may provide plenty of data, other data exists. If your nonprofit sells items, look at warehouse and inventory reports. If programs provide participation and survey data, add that to the data repository for examination. Consider many sources to leverage all of your data and build a stronger, better organization.
Nonprofits that track program participation can look more closely at program data to update their offerings. Programs that receive higher participation, for example, should be examined to determine if they can be spun into additional opportunities. For example, an animal shelter offering a spay/neuter clinic may find that a free rabies vaccination clinic is also in high demand and brings people into the shelter to view (and potentially adopt) homeless pets. An education nonprofit that finds its free mathematics tutoring program for elementary school children in high demand may wish to expand into the high schools and so on.
Better Donor Communications
The same data that reports on your program activities can also be leveraged to improve donor communications. Program participation and success data can be parlayed into donation campaigns demonstrating the efficacy of your offerings. People like to give to successful initiatives as it makes them feel that their donation is worthwhile, so demonstrating how successful the programs are can go a long way towards encouraging additional donations.
Successful nonprofits know that increasing visibility into their activities and finances is an excellent way to court donors and participants. The more transparency and visibility into their actions, the greater the trust they engender with the public, which in turns leads to better utilization of their programs and increased donations. Sharing the data from your systems and using it to for storytelling purposes can take your nonprofit to new levels.
Increasing Nonprofit Success in a Tough Economic Climate
Inflation and global unrest have created a climate of uncertainty, and this in turn means fewer people donating to nonprofits … or does it? It doesn’t have to lead to a downturn in donations. Instead, leveraging stories and data, improving program offerings based on data, and ensuring transparency and communications can build up programs and services during times when other nonprofits may be struggling. For those nonprofits that can dig deeply into their data, they may find information that can lead them to greater improvements across the organization.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.