Nonprofit reporting system excellence often seems like an impossible goal. Nonprofit leaders think they must live with their existing reporting systems because they are unaware of any alternatives. Or, if they know alternatives exist, they assume these options are too expensive.
Yet, not-for-profit leaders feel frustrated with their existing reporting systems. Among the reasons are:
No Single Source of the Truth
When separate reports fail to “tie out” as expected, Leaders do not know which version to trust.
This can be caused by tapping information from various software programs that use different internal rules to process data. This creates “data silos” that force the Nonprofit to devise cumbersome methods to match up data. This puts pressure on the Nonprofit’s technical resources to continually maintain these custom data integrations. If the Nonprofit lacks the internet technical expertise to create these integrations, costly outside resources may need to be used.
Inflexible Reporting Structure
Software programs used by Nonprofits often include a reporting component. These are typically rudimentary “canned” reports that show only the data from that software. Such reports are notoriously difficult to change if such modifications are even possible. If changes are not possible, another common option is exporting data to a file and uploading it into Excel or similar tools. This allows the Nonprofit greater flexibility in reporting. However, the maintenance of such reports is both time-consuming and error-prone.
Another alternative is to pay the software vendor or a 3rd party to modify existing reports or create new ones. This is a costly option that also may take excessive time.
Even if an organization saves money by tolerating its existing, inadequate Nonprofit reporting system, there is a cost. The cost comes in the form of less than optimal decision-making. Because reports are flawed or incomplete in their representation of the truth, decision quality suffers. Poor decisions have a monetary impact.
Given all of the above, Nonprofit reporting system excellence seems like a faraway dream.
Investing in Better Reporting
However, there is hope! Nonprofit reporting system excellence can be achieved with targeted investments in better tools and processes.
Built-in Data Integration
Nonprofits should review their existing software programs and compare them to competitors that combine multiple processes. For example, a new product that combines CRM with support in one package for email campaigns and feedback mechanisms. This replaces three existing products used by the Nonprofit and provides pre-integrated data. This will reduce the number of data silos to be integrated.
Do-It-Yourself Reporting Capability
Data analytics software has made great strides in the past decade. Vendors now offer tools that perform data integration tasks and make report building a “drag-and-drop” exercise. These capabilities allow the Nonprofit to handle reporting tasks that previously need to be farmed out to expensive consultants. Examples of this type of software are Tableau and PowerBI.
Making the investment in up-to-date reporting tools and other software will help Nonprofits make better decisions. These better decisions will lead to benefits that far exceed the cost of the new technology.