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Making Wise Decisions: Choosing the Right Data System

Making Wise Decisions, a free resource on how to choose a nonprofit data system.

We’ve all been there. Frustrated with maintaining 15 different spreadsheets, 30 word documents, and 19 Survey Monkey Surveys, a nonprofit leader says, “Enough! Let’s just get a data system.”

Yes! Finally! A centralized place for all the organization’s client level data that will help the team serve clients better and make reporting to funders a breeze.

Joy and excitement fade to sadness as the team struggles to fathom how to go about getting a new data system, much less implementing one. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: nonprofits often invest upwards of $50,000 in a new data system.

A new free resource, Making Wise Decisions, was created with these nonprofits in mind. Developed by B3 Consults and Public Profit and generously supported by the S.H. Cowell Foundation, with supplemental funding from the Y & H Soda Foundation, Making Wise Decisions incorporates advice from small to mid-sized nonprofits that have adopted a new data system.

We read the guide, and here are our top five takeaways:

1. Figure out why you need a data system

You know you want a new database, but it’s a good idea to figure out why it’s time for your organization. Maybe you’re missing too many application deadlines. Maybe you want to up your stewardship game and get tighter with your donors. When you know why you want a database, you can more easily narrow down which one is best for your organization.

2. Make it a group decision

Assemble a team of your colleagues to decide what kinds of functions you need this software to perform. Team members can gather input from all staff members about what type of functionality is required. Have team members research which platforms will satisfy these needs.

3. Figure out a budget

This one’s pretty self-explanatory! Just remember: this kind of platform can cost a lot of money, especially when you customize!

4. Make a wish list for vendors

Vendors will want to court you. So when you reach out to them to inquire about their software, make sure you have a wish list ready. List what functions you want the software to perform, and include your budget.

5. Ask your partners for feedback

Chances are, a lot of your partners have gone through this exact same process. Ask them what data system they decided to use, and why. Ask them about their decision-making process. Ask them how they like their platform now that they’re using it regularly. Take notes!

Making Wise Decisions offers so much more information. It’s a user-friendly, step-by-guide to organizations that are considering adopting a new data management system. This free toolkit includes:

  • A comprehensive guidebook that walks nonprofit organizations through key considerations when selecting and adopting a data system.
  • A set of guidebook-aligned planning tools that teams can use to document their agency-specific needs and considerations.
  • An online “quiz” that organizations can take to identify data systems most likely to meet their needs.
  • Webinars and trainings to help nonprofits get started

You can find the guide here. Take a look and let us know what you think! Feel free to post comments below.

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