Many non-profit organizations collect data on a variety of sources during the normal course of operations, including details on funding sources, campaigns, resource allocation and the clients they serve. Balance sheets are usually administered electronically in a GL, and there may be other systems for example, to track inventory, coordinate logistics or manage contacts. Over time all such systems accrue vast amounts of data that can potentially support the organization’s strategic decision making – but for many, there can be impediments to converting it into valuable, insightful information. Challenges typically revolve around two key constraints, the skill required to free the data, and the ability to transform it into meaningful analytic results.
Small to mid-sized orgs may lack sufficient technical capacity or acumen to extract data from the sometimes complex, often proprietary data formats that reside behind software applications. Although it is common to find report-generating functions within these apps, they tend to be ‘canned’ and not customizable, best suited for conveying operational status. These disparate systems are rarely integrated, making it difficult to draw inferences based on the entire data landscape. These limitations conspire to constrain analysis to tactical decision making rather than enabling a path to broader strategic insight.