Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs are not-for-profit organizations that generally exist to contribute to the greater good in one way or another…usually through a specific route of service or provision.
Most are set up in a similar fashion: a need is identified. A plausible way to meet that need is created. A business plan is developed, donations are solicited through various means, income streams (for the primary purpose and function of the NGO) are created, a team is put in place and it takes off.
Then, business proceeds as normal. Adjustments are made as necessary, but, generally, until a breaking point is reach, few major changes are made to the process or system in place to keep the NGO up and running effectively.
Sometimes, this approach leads to an irrelevancy of sorts. As time changes, needs change; it’s part of life. But, in many cases, it’s hard to identify these needs, or, if they are identified, to meet these needs. It can be a struggle to find ways to change that are substantiated by enough concrete information enough to move forward. So, instead of staying relevant and re-working ways to reach identified needs, the NGO keeps doing what it has always done, sometimes moving farther and farther away from what’s actually in line with its mission.
Data as a Game Changer
If you had the data your NGO needed to stay relevant, to stay efficient and to keep up with the goals that align with your mission, what could you do?
- Could you reach a larger audience?
- Could you meet needs locally or across the world that would otherwise be left unmet?
- Could you expand your reach by setting up additional locations, headquarters or centers?
- Could you save time and money, funneling both into greater areas of needs?
Without gathering and examining the data, it’s hard to say precisely what your NGO would be able to accomplish, but, you probably have a few ideas. It’s all about the bigger picture.
Habitat for Humanity is one NGO that’s been able to do big things, all stemming from a better use of data collection tools and analyzation. While the organization’s mission has always been to eliminate the housing deficit, actually reaching that goal became problematic, especially overseas.
Their approach was outlined in a Harvard Business Review article, “How Large NGOs Are Using Data to Transform Themselves.” Originally, the organization’s goal was to build 5% more homes each year than the year before. While this certainly contributed to reducing the housing deficit, it wasn’t a direct response; building wasn’t the only solution.
By compiling the data and comparing the services available to the actual needs in specific locations, a new global strategic plan was created and put in place that was more systematic and specific. With only the original 5% building increase goal in place, it would take over 100% to eliminate the housing deficit in most locations served by Habitat for Humanity. Data allowed for greater insight into the process, and provided more direct ways to address the organization’s mission, reducing the 100-year timeframe substanially.
Another organization, Samaritan’s Purse has also used data to create measurable change – this time, Zerion got to play a part in the change. The organization’s goal is to meet the critical needs of victims of conflict, disaster, famine and epidemics throughout the world in practical ways like the provision of food, water, shelter, medicine and other forms of assistance. But, before a data collection system was in place, collecting valuable information needed to make an actual impact took paper forms and assessments that required manual entry and assessment before responses to world crises could be facilitated.
Using Zerion’s premier platform, iFormBuilder, Samaritan’s Purse was empowered to collect data through a rapid assessment that allowed – and still allows – incident management teams on the ground to synthesize information in real time, creating action plans and responses almost instantaneously. This new ability has allowed for a rapid response to international disasters including the recent earthquakes in Nepal and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Additionally, the system has reduced data entry, cleaning and processing times, minimized inaccuracies and provided real-time GIS and mapping.
For both organizations, in very different ways, data is the common denominator that has allowed for more direct, more efficient responses that meet specific, mission-based needs.
The Possibilities are Endless
It sounds broad, maybe even far reaching, but, that’s because it is. Each NGO has its own mission that is accompanied by specific needs. The great thing about data, is that it isn’t limited to a specific function; it can meet almost any need, when used properly, in concordance with the right data management system or set of tools.
Data helps in creating missions for new NGOs, it helps in redefining that mission for existing NGOs and allows for strategic plans to be created that help in meeting specific goals; it’s transformational.
What are your current setbacks or frustrations? In what ways do you feel as though your organization’s mission is limited? Could a lack of actionable data be what’s holding you back? We’d love to help. Check out our recent case studies to learn more about the various data-based solutions available to your NGO, then contact us today.