For years I have written about and discussed issues concerning data management and how it affects a charity. My concern has been the retention of quality donor data and how it was being captured for past, present and future use. I even wrote a book!
Staff change exerts pressure on a system when there has been a failure to maintain the custody of the charity’s knowledge-base. Different people bring different skills to an organization. Managing data may be well out of a manager’s purview in their desire to be effective; senior managers need to understand the significant role software plays to control the flow of charitable dollars and all the supporting data related to donors and funders. Is there a solution?
Lightning Bolt an Epiphany!
The answer comes when a charity embraces an Information Management Plan, or as we call it a Knowledge Plan. Policies and procedures support the Knowledge Plan, and well-defined job descriptions ensure its compliance through performance reviews. It addresses an organized system, so that information of all forms is accessible and accurate. It offers consistency and continuity, regardless of staff change.
Why call it a Knowledge Plan?
Charities received data in the form of donations, talking points with donors, research on funding organizations and more. Data when consolidated creates context giving the charity information. When information transforms itself into actionable items to be used strategically, it becomes knowledge. Our economy is knowledge-driven, and successful non-profits are as well; hence we define a Knowledge Plan.
The Knowledge Plan
The Knowledge Plan describes how the charity handles the information which supports its charitable fundraising. No single individual would be able to change how a charity manages donors, funders and advocates.
The Knowledge Plan addresses donor management, grant management, media and advocate management, document management, fundraising and event management, job descriptions, performance reviews and receipting. It looks at every type of gift or transaction to determine how it is recorded as it affects the ability of the charity to service its donors, hosts, sponsors, advocates, clients and volunteers.
Short Game vs Long Game
When the management of a charity’s data is consigned to receipting services or to the newest staff member with little consideration as to how it affects the operation of the charity, the result is chaos. These are charities running a short game. But it is the long game that sustains a charity.
If more charitable dollars, greater productivity, effective donor stewardship, time to achieve goals, reduced stress and maintaining quality staff is a charity’s goal, implementing a Knowledge Plan is the only answer.
Can’t or Can What is Your Mantra
We have heard it said, “it can’t work”. The “can’t people” have spoken their truth “when you can’t, you can’t”. However, for the charity who says “can”, their staff will enjoy the benefits of a balanced work/private life, less stress, greater job satisfaction and better salaries as the charity flourishes.
Plan First Culture
The outcome is a Knowledge Plan yielding a “plan first” culture. Change is motivated by those who understand the information and knowledge a charity uses to support its programs. New staff members are introduced to a culture reinforced by training; with job descriptions to define how they will contribute to an ever-growing knowledge-base.
We have yet to speak with anyone who tells us their charity has enough dollars for its programs. Let your charity invest in its internal operations to the benefit of all who support it.
Sharron Batsch is the developer of @EASE Fund Development Software and the author of From Chaos to Control, Build a High Performance Team Using Knowledge Management. She has worked with a wide variety of charities for over 25 years as both a consultant and volunteer fundraiser and event chair. Her work helps define how charities can best use the data they collect and create. She specializes in information management for the not-for-profit community.