Business Intelligence software can greatly assist nonprofits in making better use of data they collect from submissions by potential and actual awardees. When you have a specific mission for your funds, finding more efficient ways to track performance can be extremely beneficial, according to Idealware. While people in the nonprofit sector tend to go with their gut and do what their hearts tell them, proper utilization of data can lead to better choices and larger donations. You can immediately see which organizations utilized your funds and use this information to increase the efficiency of operations and further the goals of your organization.

A study from the Nonprofit Technology Network cited by Heller Consulting found that 99 percent of nonprofits are already tracking some kind of data. Most often, these organizations indicated they tracked financial and operational data. You are most likely obligated to provide some type of reporting. Chances are, though, there’s a better solution out there.

What is business intelligence?

While organizations may be keeping track of data from different parts of their operations, they aren’t necessarily using it meaningfully. Without the right tools, the information from different aspects of your nonprofit’s business can be isolated, and when these systems can’t communicate with one another, that can be a problem.

BI platforms can collect data from multiple applications in a central location that is separate from the initial storage centers. This way it can be manipulated for better analysis and it won’t affect the numbers, Idealware states. In addition to collecting data and helping you analyze it more efficiently, BI software makes it far easier to visualize the numbers and perform immediate analysis.

Good BI tools will create dynamic visualizations of data, so you can make sense of it more quickly. Business Intelligence will allow you to log in to a dashboard that brings together data from multiple sources, from grantees to financial information. If you’ve ever had the experience of trying to integrate data from three separate spreadsheets or databases and determine relationships, you can probably see how an automated system is beneficial.

With all of the advantages BI can offer to nonprofits, why aren’t more organizations using a streamlined platform to collect and present this data? Nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter believes it’s because employees feel they lack the skills to collect and manage data.

How can nonprofits get started?

If all of this sounds like it must be expensive, fear not! Since these platforms have been on the market for a while, prices have dropped significantly, and it’s very likely you’ll be able to find one that fits your budget and the scope of your operations. There are a number of BI platforms on the market, so your organization will have to do some research to determine which one is right for you. There are a number of platforms that include this functionality along with grant or scholarship management, which can be an additional benefit for foundations that need to report on the fulfillment of fund criteria. No matter what you choose, successful integration of software can lead to process improvement, and save you time and energy in the long run.