Get The Data and Keep It Simple

Tuesday June 23, 2020 comments Tags: nonprofit, accounting, mission, vision, tools, infrastructure, systems, capacity building


Any accounting, business or tax advice in this here podcast is not intended as a thorough in depth analysis of your specific issues. It's not a substitute for a formal opinion. It is not good enough to avoid tax related penalties. Got to tell you this because don't want y'all coming for me. Back to the episode.  Hey, it's Chyla Graham. Welcome to season three of the Nonprofit Nuggets Podcast. This season is going to be about infrastructure and systems. You know, the things I love. I'll be talking to some friends and you get to hear their interviews spread out over time. Because as you know, we keep these things short and sweet, but for those of you who want a little bit more in depth, and you're like, I'd rather listen to them all at one time, head over to our website for the full interview.

Chyla Graham (07:55):

So what is one thing you want all nonprofits to know?

Amanda Wallander Roberts (08:05):

That is a really good question. I would say data, because if I can only choose one thing, it's data, but I want to apply that to everything.

Chyla Graham (08:16):


Amanda Wallander Roberts (08:16):

If you are in your programs and you're thinking, Oh, we're doing such a good job, congratulations staff. Look how much you're impacting the community. And you don't have data, I'm like, I'm glad you feel like you're doing a good job. I would love some proof that you're doing a good job. Let's just back up your feelings with some actual data.

Amanda Wallander Roberts (08:36):

Or when it comes to fundraising, we're like, "We really think we should do a crowdfunding campaign." And it's like, okay, well, let's look at the data. How many social media followers do you have? What's your strategy behind that? And how is that based on data? And even for nonprofits that are just getting started, or people considering starting a nonprofit, I'm just like, "Does the community need this? Where is your data?" Because a lot of times, we think, Oh, this would be such a great program. And it's like, says who? Says you? Does the community also say that? Where's that community input data?

Amanda Wallander Roberts (09:09):

So that's one thing. I wish all nonprofits were much more data focused in every aspect of what they do.

Chyla Graham (09:18):

Yes and yes. And I say that because there comes a point where you're thinking, well, how do we grow and expand? And it's like you said, I think you feel like that was effective, but how do you write that on an application?

Amanda Wallander Roberts (09:37):


Chyla Graham (09:37):

How do you make the case for support if it's just, "We feel that people like us more." Do they?

Amanda Wallander Roberts (09:46):

"We feel like this program would be really good for the community." And that's where we say a lot of nonprofits fail.

Chyla Graham (09:51):

Yeah. Well, what tools would you recommend for an organization who's trying to figure out how do we track this data?

Amanda Wallander Roberts (10:01):

Well honestly, if you're just getting started on tracking things, really spreadsheets, I don't care if it's Google Sheets or Excel, keep it simple for yourself, and really make sure that you're only tracking the information you're actually going to use. So what we see a lot of times is we want to develop these surveys and ask all these questions and it's like, okay, if the response to the survey, you are not going to do anything with. Like this one question, if that's not going to change your decisions.

Amanda Wallander Roberts (10:31):

I worked with an organization and one of the things that they always got feedback on for their surveys was parking. Parking was a big issue with the people they were trying to serve. So they were going to ask this question specifically about parking. And I was like, "Oh, okay. So would you provide alternative parking?"

Amanda Wallander Roberts (10:53):

And they were like, "No."

Amanda Wallander Roberts (10:54):

And I was like, "Okay, then don't ask." Because then if they think you're going to make a decision off of that one question, then they're going to be expecting something out of it. Or when you don't do something, they're going to feel like their voice isn't heard. So only collect the data that you need. And that also goes for what you're putting in your own spreadsheets and tracking for your own fundraising purposes, just the data that you need. And you can use a spreadsheet.

Amanda Wallander Roberts (11:20):

Of course, I love fancier things like Airtable and all of that kind of stuff, but I encourage most nonprofits to keep it simple until they're ready for something more significant.

Chyla Graham (11:30):

Yeah. I definitely support that graduated approach, because one thing is, how much are you going to invest into this? And if you're not going to train someone on how to use it, this was not a worthwhile endeavor.

Amanda Wallander Roberts (11:49):

But we love the next new system, but I'm like, okay, let's get used to evaluating. Let's get used to capturing the data first. And then if we need something fancier, we can graduate, like you said.


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