When you woke up on January 1st, I bet you had a lot of New Years Resolutions floating around in the back of your head. It’s always a great time to try something new – to challenge yourself and level up. And while self-improvement is always good, your organization should strive for better as well.
So, let’s make 2018 the Year of Better Data.
An organization’s “data” can mean different things to each workplace. But today, we want to discuss donations and financial records – two pieces of financial data that are imperative to a not-for-profit’s success.
By maintaining data on a regular basis, not-for-profit organizations are able to save time and focus on tasks that are most important to the organization's mission.
For many organizations, merging data into usable information such as monthly financial reports, annual reports, and year-end statements, can be a time consuming and stressful task; especially when the original data has not been properly organized. Think of keeping clean data, like keeping a clean home. Clutter around the house has a way of piling up, especially when you don’t put things back in their place right away. You might think, “I can do that later”. But before you know it, you have a huge mess, and it turns into a much bigger job – one that can take that a lot of time to clean up.
Data is the same way. If you’re not on top of it, it’ll just get messy. And that means it’ll take you even longer to do your work when it comes time to actually using the data.
So here are a few steps that your team can take to get this year started off on the right foot:
Determine What’s Important to Your Organization:
Every organization’s needs are different. Take some time at the beginning of the year to identify the pieces of data that are most important to your work. A good exercise is to think about the things you want to be able to report on at the end of the month and/or year. Some examples of data points to track would be:
- Total donations
- Expenses allocated by fund
- General Expenses
- Contact Information of Donors
When you have a full list of the data points that are important to you, you can move on to the next step.
Once you have an understanding of what needs to be tracked, it is now time to implement a system that will help to organize this data into usable information. Applications such as QuickBooks Online and Xero, for example, are fantastic tools that can help to track financial data and generate a variety of financial reports that can be showcased to key stakeholders.
Similarly, applications such as Keela offer the ability to centrally manage all aspects of your workflow: from email marketing and project management, to donation and contact management. These applications create a hub for your entire team to work from, saving you time and money.
Keep Things Simple:
When you set up your tracking system, don’t overcomplicate things. We recommend keeping your Chart of Accounts as simple as possible, while ensuring that it is inline with your funding requirements. For example, instead of: “Office expenses – Pens and Markers” and “Office expenses – Paper” – consolidate these accounts to “Office Expenses”. Of course, only consolidate what makes sense for your team. If it is very important to track paper and pens, then do it – just try to simplify wherever you can.
When there are fewer options, there can be less confusion across a team. Try your best to keep things uniform across the entire organization; using the same terms and categories. The last thing you want is for each team to create their own categories, and potentially miss or double count a piece of data.
Accountability is Key:
When implementing a new system, it is important to establish expectations and responsibilities for staff members. There are a number of tools and resources available to help with this process. For example, Enkel helps non-profit organizations to implement a streamlined bookkeeping process that outlines each individual’s specific responsibilities.
Internally, it is important to encourage team members to take control of their assigned tasks, and if you see someone slipping, nip it in the bud and address it. It doesn’t take long to turn something into a habit, good or bad!
Take these steps as an organization and start your "Year of Clean Data" the right way!