Nonprofits are held to a very high standard by funders and the public at large. Organizations must continually prove their outcomes to their stakeholders, and demonstrate funding is being well spent.

With ETO in place, your nonprofit can track a substantial amount of data to show the impact your efforts are having, but sometimes that data becomes overwhelming.  You must ensure that you acquire and retain high-quality data. If you aren’t focusing on the right data points—data that is crafted to allow your users simple data entry, meaningful to your stakeholders, and easy to retrieve –you could be missing significant opportunities to move your nonprofit forward.

So, what should you keep in mind when designing your ETO system?

1. High Quality Data
It’s been said millions of times, and it is always true and relevant: Garbage In, Garbage Out. If there is no accountability for your users, and if they aren’t well trained in how to use their ETO system, you’re unlikely to have high quality data. It is critical that you document your processes, and that an Administrator is constantly running data quality reports and sharing the information with program leaders.

2. Data that leads to funding
Funders consistently ask for “outcomes” and “impact” data. Although these terms have varying definitions, they both generally refer to long-term and substantial positive changes in a client’s or family’s life. Providing precise outcomes to stakeholders will ensure that it is abundantly clear how their funding translates into community impact.

3. Data that proves your impact
Defining impact through data is often the most challenging task for nonprofits. Show you are making lasting changes in your community by finding data points that demonstrate how those who have successfully exited your program have continued on the path to long-term success. Does your organization provide tools upon program exit? Are your activities making larger changes in the community? Think about how you can measure these items and track back to your program’s activities.

4. Data that tells your clients’ stories
When we think about databases, it’s far too easy to focus on the numbers. But it’s equally as important to use narrative stories to share why a client needs your services, how you’re benefitting them in the short-term and how you’ve permanently impacted them for the long-term. It is the number one way to communicate your organization’s goals and raise awareness for most stakeholders. Add a form to ETO to allow users to share their success stories with their clients. By doing this in quantitative and qualitative ways, your mission will be clearly communicable to many others who need your assistance.

5. Data that helps understand setbacks
Documenting things that have gone wrong is often seen as scary, but all organizations have bad times. Rather than shying away from this data, use it to learn. Funders often are equally as impressed by thoughtful analysis and lessons learned, as they are positive outcomes data. By putting your good and bad days side-by-side, you can learn what is causing setbacks and use this knowledge to avoid similar setbacks in the future.

6. Data that provides a high-level view of your organization from end-to-end
Showing the journey your clients go through from program start to exit is an important tool for evaluating how everything is working together and where your organization can improve or expand programs. Often, organizations find themselves hyper-focused on small areas that have been identified as key, but the high-level view paints the entire picture for your organization and can help identify more opportunities for strategic improvements.

Tracking and reporting on these key data types will streamline your information sharing to stakeholders and save significant time for your teams, allowing time to focus on making strategic decisions that move the organization forward.

Learn how the consultants at Treadwell can help your organization refocus and begin working strategically into the future.