As a donor do I want to hear my charity of choice proclaim
“We need to clean up our data!?”
Is there something functionally misunderstood in the not for profit community where data, their most valued asset, is given short shrift to other needs?
Is it possible that a more organized and functional method for managing all the information a charity uses to operate successfully would support all these needs?
Our many years working in the charitable sector has shown us time and again, the negative results of poor information management, lack of training and little staff accountability.
It is interesting to hear that good leadership is the solution when in fact good business practices which outlive staff change, not only supports leadership but is a salve when poor leaders are in place. It’s not our intent to focus on leadership. Good intentions come in many forms, some are just more effective than others.
It has been our contention for a long while that the charity itself needs to have some requirements built into how it functions, so that it can hire the right people and retain the right methods to support its sustainability.
There are many avenues of information or knowledge which supports a work group. Consider a bank. Does every new accounting clerk change the software to something they are familiar with only to quit in 18 or so months? No. Do tellers change processes that protect the bank from making errors when handling customer deposits and withdrawals? No. Would any change be acceptable where a more effective solution has been in house?
Training is a big area of concern. “Let’s not train our staff and see if they can figure things out.” It’s cheaper than investing to support a knowledgeable work team. Going back to our bank analogy, do they train their staff? Yes, of course! Because someone worked at a different banking organization is that enough to assume they can absorb the differences and function successfully? Maybe or maybe not, but ensuring staff are knowledgeable should be a criterion for success if not greater productivity.
Large shops enjoy the benefit of many staff members taking specific jobs working on focused tasks. Small shops need to have shared job skills to ensure there is quality in the processes and speed bumps are avoided.
So, our bottom line is this. We find the idea that ‘our data is a mess’ is really the outcome of poor management and a lack of understanding of what information and knowledge means to a charity. Anyone can ask for money, but only some can manage the processes around ‘The Ask’ effectively. The charity needs to come forward to define its expectations and instill accountability at all levels.
Sharron Batsch is the developer of @EASE Fund Development Software and the author of From Chaos to Control, Build a High Performance Team Using Knowledge Management. She has worked with a wide variety of charities for over 25 years.