Client Management and Outcomes Tracking Databases - Challenges and Recommendations

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When your nonprofit works directly with clients, it can be difficult to figure out exactly how your organization is helping, and which resources you're providing are the most valuable. A nonprofit might provide a young adult with access to an after-school program, life skills training, drug abuse prevention, and mental health counseling services. When that young adult succeeds in life, enrolls in college, and lives independently, how do you know which services made the biggest impact?

Difficult as it may be, quantifying how your organization's programs and services impact the community you serve is one of a nonprofit's most important and challenging tasks. Nonprofits want to invest their limited resources in the programs and services that are most successful, and funders and supporters want to know the impact of their investments.

It can be a struggle to provide proof of your impact on individuals, children, and families in the form of numbers, analysis, and evaluation. But when technology is used as an integral part of service delivery, it can help address some of these challenges and even uncover new opportunities.

Databases to the Rescue

Client management and outcomes tracking databases can help nonprofit organizations and funders achieve maximum effectiveness with limited resources. In the best cases, these tools increase service capacity and improve program effectiveness so that nonprofits can better support those they serve and better understand and quantify their impact.

Such databases take many forms -- from a homegrown Access database to a Web-based data system. The databases go by many names, but their purpose is the same: They allow organizations to enter and track client information needed to maintain client relationships and offer appropriate services. They help collect client contact information, demographic data, and track what services they have received. Some databases even allow organizations to track progress towards specific goals. Once information is entered, it is stored centrally so that other staff members can access it. A good client management database can help nonprofit organizations:

  • Capture information consistently and effectively. Software applications that record information in a database make data capture more useful and efficient. Staff can be required to complete specific tasks when entering data, assuring that critical service and client information is always there.
  • Assist in the analysis of capacity, effort, and program effectiveness. Because the information is in electronic form, it can help provide an in-depth understanding of what is working and what is not. The ability to view and manipulate information in different ways gives organizations tools to help direct their efforts where they will do the most good.