Is Excel the Enemy of Your Nonprofit? Maybe…

By Matt Bitzegaio on May 2, 2018

Why not Excel?

Don’t get me wrong – I love Excel…for certain things.  As a way to store non-related, tabular style information, Excel is great. It provides rich capabilities for analysis and can do more than most people realize.

That said, it is absolutely the wrong choice for managing donor information and relationship data, both of which are very important to today’s nonprofit organizations. Why you might ask? Because those things are typically changing and evolving, or should be. Spreadsheets work well to track information that isn’t changing often. Think of how a spreadsheet works – you have your columns and rows of data and there is one spot for each piece of information. Again, for non-changing items that can work. But let’s imagine a real-world scenario in most every nonprofit – tracking of donations. In a standard spreadsheet, we might start creating columns for each donation, but as you can imagine, that would get unusable very quickly. You might say, “Well of course that wouldn’t work well. I would create another spreadsheet to store donations and have a row per donation.” On the surface that sounds reasonable, but again, in practice is less than ideal. Not only are you fragmenting your data, you are making it difficult to report across and have no constraints on how the data is related.

Add to that the fact that many times each employee within a nonprofit will have their own set of spreadsheets of the data they care about, and you have a mess of silo’d data that you don’t understand, and can’t report on. Excel makes this problem really easy to introduce, and difficult to solve.

Excel is also not a prescriptive tool – it may allow you track data, but without a lot of work, it doesn’t provide you prescriptive advice on how to use the data. Make no mistake, if you are tracking data and not using it to make your organization better, you are wasting your time. Again, Excel thrives at giving you a place to collect data, but doesn’t DRIVE you to use the data.

So what is a better solution?

A true donor relationship management tool is often a much better solution than Excel to help your nonprofit thrive and build better, more meaningful, and long-term relationships with your donors. These tools are designed to help you manage and understand the growing and evolving relationship with these donors, and if the tool works well, provides you actionable insights and prescriptive plans for how to use the data without requiring you to be a data scientist.

Unfortunately, many of the tools you might recognize have their own barriers of entry – chief among those would be cost and complexity. These challenges put tools such as Salesforce, Blackbaud, or Microsoft Dynamics 365 out of reach of most nonprofits. Many experts suggest working with an expert to implement those types of solutions and to plan for around $20,000 in up-front costs, plus large monthly or annual costs to keep the solution running. Add to the cost that the complexity tends to make the solutions difficult to adopt, and those solutions are used inconsistently – and the only thing that might be worse than making decisions on no data, would be making decisions on BAD data. Bad data is what you get when these tools are used inconsistently.

It’s time to get your organization out of Excel!

As of June 1st, 2018, DonorDock will be available to small nonprofits everywhere. The DonorDock solution is built on a reductionist theory – we aren’t interested in having a solution that follows the lead of other CRM tools and expects you to track a lot of data some of the time – instead we have designed a solution that asks you to track the RIGHT data ALL of the time. This data is then used to provide you prescriptive plans and actions and actual insights you can use to make decisions and make your organization more effective.

Join our mailing list now to get more information as we near the launch date of the product. We will be offering a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) so you can see how DonorDock can help your organization. We look forward to learning more about your organization and enabling you to do more!

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