Every single nonprofit staff or board member of all time has struggled with data in one way or another. Who among us has not stressed about data for board reporting, grant proposals, or budgeting? Our daily efforts and ultimate impact are intrinsically entwined with data. But just because you can produce a report from your database, doesn’t mean that you should use it! If there’s missing data, partial data, or stale data of any kind, then the reports cannot be fully trusted. Why? Because they don’t accurately tell the story of the underlying information or paint as full a picture of the truth as they could.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
In all my years of working with people and technology, there’s one overarching data philosophy that resonates in any situation: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Clear and simple, this phrase underscores what we all know to be true: the quality of what goes into a system will impact the quality of what comes out. When it comes to databases, the accuracy of its reporting can only be as sound as the underlying data going in. If a user enters data that is neither clean nor accurate (i.e. “garbage”), then one can only expect the reports of that same data to also be compromised (i.e. “garbage”).
Data Quality Reigns Supreme
The only way to avoid inaccurate reporting is to put practices in place to make sure that the data going into the system is clean and that it doesn’t go stale over time. What can be done to ensure the highest of data quality standards? Check out our guest post from our Associate and Data Specialist, Diana Shea, with four tips.
Keepin’ It Clean
Once we place higher value on the accuracy of our data, we begin to look at its maintenance in a different way. As nonprofit leaders, we rely on a variety of data to make critical decisions, drive results, and invite others to join our cause. With sound data practices in place, your team can trust your reporting and lead with confidence. Be smart about how you spend your time cleaning up the past and even smarter about data entry practices going forward. You’ll be amazed by the results across the organization.