Ways Big Data Can Improve Nonprofit Performance

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Nonprofits have admirable goals and values, and they’re treated accordingly for the purpose of taxes. Although they may not be operating to make a profit, nonprofits still need to be run like any for-profit business in order to be successful and to achieve their altruistic goals. (Text continues after graphic)

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Big data has become a must in most for-profit operations, and there’s no reason nonprofits shouldn’t be using these tools to improve their overall performance as well. If you’re involved with a nonprofit, it’s time to start thinking about how big data could help your organization succeed. Here’s what you need to know.

The Importance of Big Data

First, what is big data? Simply put, it’s a collection of large datasets that can be analyzed to find helpful insights. These insights have a number of applications in the business world, from making organizations more efficient to understanding customer or donor behavior. Insights pulled from an organization’s data can help inform strategic decision-making and improve overall performance. Nonprofits always need to be watching where they invest and how they fundraise, and big data can be a crucial tool for ensuring the organization stays on the right track.

Steps to Implement a Performance Management Process

Creating a performance management process is just that, a process. There are five general steps to the process, including planning, monitoring, developing, rating, and rewarding. This process allows nonprofits to spot gaps and improve performance by clearly setting expectations and providing support to employees when necessary.

One of the reasons a performance management process works is that it provides transparency. Using solid data, setting expectations from the beginning and providing ongoing feedback means that there are no surprises. It also helps to keep employees focused on improvement and holds them accountable for the terms agreed to at the outset of the performance management process.

How to Collect & Report Data

Data analytics can seem intimidating if you’re not familiar with how it works. However, new tools are making it easier to collect, understand, and report. With that said, nonprofits should seriously consider hiring a data scientist or other big data expert.

The first step is to understand what your goals are. Why are you collecting the data in the first place? What is its purpose? Once you know what the most important questions are for your organization, you can set up your analytics programs to focus on those specific issues. You will also need to set indicators of success. The data can help you monitor whether your in-progress goals are going well or if your team is struggling.

Once you have the data you need and have made sense of it, you should always create in-depth reports that will help you understand your progress later on. You may find you need to do some more employee training or tweak one of your strategies, and having that information later on will be very helpful.

How Big Data Can Improve Performance

For many years, business leaders have relied on instincts and experience to make decisions. While that’s still a part of the process, nonprofits can improve performance by creating a data-driven culture that bases its decisions and training approach on data.

In today’s culture, adaptability is one of the most important assets nonprofit leaders can have. Being able to make changes quickly, in response to data and feedback, is very important. Measuring helps nonprofits deliver on their promises, present their progress to donors, and keeps employees motivated to develop, improve, and carry out the organizational mission.

Nonprofits typically have one overarching goal or set of values, and implementing big data can help organizations move toward these goals more quickly. Some of the other performance improvements that can come out of a big data initiative include improved innovation and a trusting, collaborative environment.

Keeping the Organizational Goals on Track with Big Data

Beyond the applications in performance management processes we’ve explored already, big data can have another benefit for nonprofits: it can help keep teams goal-oriented. Without a clear strategy or motivation behind growth and development efforts, it’s easy for teams to start losing sight of the ultimate goal. Having this set process for evaluating employee efforts and performance will help the entire team create a data-driven culture, become more autonomous, and ultimately, more successful.




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