Technology-use is growing more prevalent in the nonprofit sphere. Platforms like donation and grant management, as well as business intelligence and analytics software, are beginning to transform the way organizations operate. However, with any process improvement, there are some growing pains. A recent conference addressed these efforts and drafted a document to assist nonprofits moving forward with better data use.

The Lake Washington Declaration

In June 2014, Markets For Good created a workshop that was hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to discuss creating an infrastructure to support the social sector. The workshop brought together 70 experts of varying roles across the nonprofit sphere. According to Markets For Good, the central question the event covered was “How might we collectively build the information infrastructure to provide all actors in the social sector with the insight that they need to inform their decisions?” In the end, the attendees drafted “The Lake Washington Declaration.”

The declaration stated the nonprofit sphere’s interest in always placing constituents at the center of the work organizations do and collaborating to achieve goals. To accomplish this, the declaration said, nonprofits should engage in openness, sharing, and learning to increase collective knowledge.

In addition to stating these goals, the document also outlined a few ongoing tensions inherent in the work of integrating data into nonprofit operations more thoroughly. For instance, it may be difficult to embrace transparency without compromising privacy. Besides, providing access to information could compete with the need to create sustainable business models. There is a tension between measurable acts and those that aren’t. The full text of the declaration can be read here.

Meaningful use of data leads to process improvement

Integrating data into nonprofit operations poses numerous challenges, but it’s worthwhile in the long run, provided organizations keep these issues in mind. While it is certainly true that not all acts are measurable using data, nonprofits can significantly improve certain operations this way. According to npENGAGE, using business intelligence or donation management platforms, nonprofits can improve communications efforts, update websites and digital resources for better ease of use, maintain a robust donor database to increase funding over time, and many other improvements.

To further the reach of the declaration, nonprofits are encouraged to get in contact with Markets For Good to add their names to the document. By using one another as resources, nonprofit organizations will be better able to achieve great things through technology.