Why nonprofit management software is crucial for strategic planning

Nonprofit management software is a key tool for strategic planning.
Date Published
Sue Guttormson

Effective nonprofit management can be complicated. There are many decision-makers that need to be involved in strategic planning, a situation that can breed miscommunication and general confusion. A recent article posted to the Nonprofit Quarterly drew upon the fact that there are board members, executives and other personnel who sometimes have limited exposure to every project or fundraising campaign that a nonprofit has going on at a given point in time. In fact, there are often multiyear projects that could have begun before certain staff members were even brought on board. This can lead to conflicts concerning how to best manage programs and who is responsible for the various aspects of a nonprofit's programs.

What software can do
One resource that charitable groups can rely on to facilitate these processes more effectively is nonprofit management software. One source of stress for many organizations is data analysis. While some staff members may be experts in using Excel, this software has its limitations and not everyone is able to understand the hundreds of rows and columns of data. Analytical software makes better sense of information gleaned from ongoing, as well as past programs and fundraising campaigns by putting it in easily digestible charts and graphs. Nonprofit staff members can then depend on the data to make more informed decisions about future projects and budgetary allocation by recognizing giving patterns and other important facts.

Create visual understanding
For instance, Nonprofit Quarterly suggested groups use matrix maps so that members of an organization can better understand the various projects a nonprofit supports. This is a visual representation – that depends on fastidious record-keeping – of data, including program costs, which can mean fundraising revenue compared with spending. On the vertical axis, the Quarterly measured impact, and the horizontal axis kept track of spending and donations. Specific campaigns are placed accordingly, which can help staff members clearly see what has happened or is currently occurring with the nonprofit's initiatives.

The Center for Nonprofit Management indicated that this type of strategic mapping is most commonly used in the for-profit sector but could easily be applied to charitable and philanthropic organizations. This tactic allows nonprofits to see whether or not their projects align with their original mission. At the same time, they have a better opportunity to make necessary changes based on the patterns they observe. Nonprofit software is an essential ingredient for any organization looking to bolster sustainability and identify shortfalls in their current strategies.

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