Is your organization’s current data system not up to snuff when it comes to your funding needs? Many agencies are running on the bare minimum or not utilizing their data and system to their fullest potential. Here are some challenges you may be running into in your day-to-day and how you can identify the right data management systems and solutions to help you overcome those hurdles.
What Data Management Challenges Is Your Agency Facing?
To determine which data system is right for your agency, you first need to consider the challenges you’re facing. This will help you identify the right data system solutions going forward. Two common problems include:
The Data System Only Does the Bare Minimum
For many nonprofits that aid the homeless, the data system available to them is one that only assists with the bare minimum in order to report to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In most cases, this is the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). While there are ways to tailor the HMIS and other systems to collect further data points, some communities don’t have that option and are restricted to the basics.
This restriction makes it difficult for organizations to get the funding they need from other sources. These funding sources usually require additional data to ensure the money is being used appropriately. If the agency is incapable of collecting that information, they could lose funding or miss out on the opportunity entirely.
Data Quality and Accuracy Are Lacking
- There is a misunderstanding of the questions being asked and the reasoning behind them
- Important information-gathering can feel like going through the motions
- There is a disconnect between the questions being asked of the homeless client and the way the questions are explained
- There are gaps in the information being entered into the system
- There are gaps in knowledge of how to properly use the data entry system
- There are challenges in communication between case managers and the client
- Duplicate data is being entered
Mistakes in these instances can have a cascading effect. If the data is entered incorrectly, the final data will also be incorrect. This can require the agency to have to spend additional time, money, and resources to fix the information. And if the data isn’t being corrected and sent to funders, it could result in loss of funding, as it appears you’re not meeting the requirements of the grant.
How Can Your Agency Close These Gaps?
It’s important for nonprofit organizations to first understand the gaps they’re facing when it comes to data, quality, and accuracy. This can help them identify which data systems are the right solutions for their needs. For many systems, solutions can be customized and built into the back end to help support the data the organization must enter.
However, in some cases, the back end can’t be touched. This will require additional systems to be added.
Opportunities should also not be missed for data collection. Many nonprofit organizations are doing more than what HMIS requires and offer emergency shelters, food pantries, day programs, and other resources to the homeless population. Information can and should be collected in these instances – and agencies need the right data management systems to properly manage that information coming in for additional possible sources of funding.
The Right Data Management System Is Only Half the Battle
While the correct data system will absolutely make the difference for nonprofits when it comes to funding, it won’t help as much as it could if case managers and other employees do not understand how to properly use the system. Training is essential to ensuring case managers enter the data properly the first time around, reducing the need for fixes on the final reports. This can save an agency time, money, effort, and resources, and ensures they’re making the most of their data systems.
Training can also help your agency’s workers understand questions they’re asking, the answers, if the answer makes sense or not, and what actions to take in the event of certain responses. If a client states that their last residence was a permanent support housing yet are homeless now, do your case workers know how to respond? All of this improves the accuracy and quality of the data in your reports.
How Can Nutmeg Help You Find the Right Data System?
Identifying your data management needs can feel like an uphill battle. Vendors often don’t understand what the agency is asking for or requires and could result in a system that doesn’t fit your current needs. This is where Nutmeg comes in. We work with nonprofit agencies like yours to help you identify the gaps when it comes to your data, bringing more flexibility to the table.
We’ll meet with you, discuss your goals, and determine what’s possible. Nutmeg can assist with data system customization that helps you meet these goals or recommend another solution that can be used in conjunction with your existing system. In addition, we offer training services to help ensure your case managers, program managers, and data managers all understand the data input, the questions and, of course, the system.
We understand what you’re up against, the problems that come with data management, and the industry. Many of our long-tenured team members have been where you are and have experience on the other side of the table, having worked for homeless programs and individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems. With actual agency experience, we can incorporate our real-life experiences to help you achieve real solutions, better approach data, and improve data quality and accuracy.