Many nonprofit and public social sector leaders have their hands full meeting the day-to-day demands of their missions. Stepping back might require extra effort, given the scarcity of time and other resources.
That said, the results of taking higher-level looks at internal and external data and using the data to shape messaging and practices, can be considerable according to authors of Impact Report 2020, a new release from Austin, Texas-based cloud nonprofit software provider Social Solutions.
The report serves as a clarion call. As the authors note: “Demand has continued to grow — as it did even before the COVID-19 pandemic put unprecedented strain on individuals, families and communities — exceeding the capacity of these organizations to provide services to all those in need. This capacity gap cannot be sustained. Innovation is required. We believe that data and technology are the keys to unlocking scale and truly transformative social change.”
Data, appropriately enough, bears this sentiment out. According to data in the report, 87% of nonprofit professionals believe data is moderately to extremely important to operations and decision making, and 93% of leadership at public agencies believe data plays a key role in achieving their “citizen mandate.”
Funders, too, look to comprehensive quantifiable data that reflects an organization’s impact and effectiveness when making contribution decisions, with nearly all – 98% — of funders say quantifiable impact is one of their top three considerations when making funding decisions.
For nonprofits, data-based decision-making processes can do more than guide organizational activities: they help leaders of a community-based nonprofit better understand its client communities’ needs. Assuming, of course, that the data needed for such analysis, as well as the computing infrastructure and personnel resources are all available — a questionable assumption, particularly for smaller organizations.
According to the report authors, “Managing service delivery and compliance requirements while using older systems and manual processes is inefficient. Spending more time on administrative tasks translates into less capacity for serving others.”
In some cases, the lack of resource is most apparent in human capital. As noted in the report, the average social services case worker has a 300-case load, and 38 of 50 U.S. states don’t have enough social workers. “Case workers still spend too much time manually managing data and dealing with communications, compliance and reporting challenges — at the expense of spending time directly serving people, families and communities in need,” the report authors point out.