You’ve heard the arguments for creating a data-driven culture and understand that new technology can help your nonprofit thrive. But where do you start? How do you sort through the available cloud-based software applications and identify the one that is perfect for your organization? Here are five tips to help you find the right software tools to help you accomplish your organization’s mission.
#1 Start With the End in Mind
You can’t select the right path if you don’t know where you want to go. Start the process of choosing the right cloud software vendor by asking yourself the following questions:
What outcomes are you hoping to achieve through this transition?
What current challenges do you want to mitigate or eliminate all together?
What functionality would be most useful for your organization’s mission?
What data do you need to be able to share a powerful impact story to your funders and stakeholders?
There are a variety of different software providers with different unique capabilities and purposes. Choosing one requires understanding what your organization needs and how you hope to use technology to help your team and beneficiaries flourish.
#2 Identify Your Weaknesses
Simply automating your current processes is a missed opportunity. Part of becoming data-driven is using technology to optimize your organization. To do that, you need to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and where you can improve. Here are some questions you can ask to start the process.
What data are we already collecting?
What metrics could we collect with more efficient tools?
Are there duplicated efforts we could eliminate with the right tools?
Are there workflows that could be streamlined to improve services?
Identifying where and how you can improve will help you determine which digital tools will help your organization best fulfill its mission.
#3 Find the Right Tools, Not the Most Tools
Once you’ve identified your organization’s needs, find the tool that best fits them. One of the biggest traps that organizations fall into is selecting a software application that does a lot of different things, rather than focusing on finding the functionality that addresses their specific needs. You need software that was created specifically for social-good providers.
Here are some suggestions for the functionality that you might need:
Quickly quantifying what is happening in your organization in real time.
Understanding the demographics of your participants.
Ability to track participant outcomes over time and across programs.
Ability to create custom outcome measures for your organization
Qualitative and quantitative reporting
Confirming that you are delivering equitable outcomes to diverse populations.
Outcomes dashboard showing the big picture of your organizational impact.
Finding insights to share with funders and add to grant applications.
One-click data export at any time.
Quick access to data to make informed decisions on how to use resources.
Advanced analytics to dive deeper into participant, program, and organization trends
#4 Identify Ease of Use
After you determine the functionality you need, the next step is deciding how easy the system will be to incorporate into your everyday operations. Will you need a consultant or full-time staff member who is specially trained to get the most out of your data management system? Or is the system user friendly and easily mastered by your entire team, including staff with lived experience who may not be comfortable with technology? Will the tools contribute to continuity as your staff and volunteers change? Will using the software become another unwanted task, or will it optimize their abilities and empower them to accomplish more in the same number of hours? The most valuable digital tools will always be the ones that your team can easily use to their fullest potential.
#5 Find a Single Source for Programmatic Outcomes
With each software application you use to manage program outcomes, you add a layer of complexity to understanding your big picture. Data is at its most valuable when it is combined into a single source that allows you to access everything at once, but includes granular security measures to make sure that every team member has access to what they need, but nothing they don’t. Whether you are viewing compiled charts on a dashboard or creating comprehensive reporting to provide to your funders or potential funders, having a single source of truth improves efficiency and quality.
SureImpact is a purpose-built impact management platform that is designed for social-good providers by social-good providers. SureImpact provides the data collection and impact reporting infrastructure to meet the unique needs of social-good organizations with multiple programs and diverse participants. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools are designed to help nonprofits manage, measure, and communicate their social impact while also increasing data capacity for their team members and helping their organizations thrive.
To learn more about SureImpact, check out our Quick Product Tour.