How Forms Help Nonprofits Manage Data
Today, we're releasing an updated version of our popular guide "Web Forms for Nonprofits 101", written in partnership with FormAssembly. Reading the guide made me think about my own experiences working at nonprofits over the years.
Most nonprofits operate within a tight budget and with minimal staff, and many are desperate for the right tech solution to help staff collect important programmatic data, manage disparate tasks, and operate more efficiently. I can attest to this — when I worked for a nonprofit org in 2012, I experienced a ton of undue frustration as a result of an archaic data collection and management process. I wish I’d had access to a form solution to uncomplicate my work and allow me to focus on other other aspects of my job.
The Right Form Solution Can Unmoor You from a Sea of Tedious Administrative Work
Part of my job at this nonprofit organization included managing the internship program, which meant recruiting students to our program and supervising their academic projects. My objective was first to find the right intern for our organization, and then facilitate a mutually beneficial exchange between that intern and our staff to further our organization’s strategic goals as well as the students’ academic goals. With so many qualified candidates in a small university town, this task should have been easy enough, but it wasn’t. Our internship recruitment and management process was so deeply time-consuming and inefficient, I spent countless hours corresponding via email, manually transferring data, and filing paperwork.
Or Help You Easily Capture the Right Data
Typically, our interns found our organization in three ways: via referrals from other students or professors in relevant fields of study, by Googling us, or by leaving their contact information on a physical sign-up sheet when we tabled at university events. In each instance, my first contact with the prospective intern began with an email exchange to set up an in-person interview. I’d email the prospective intern a standard PDF form with instructions to print, fill out, and return the form to me at our initial interview. The completed form captured considerable information about each student (students’ field of study, interests, skills, goals, availability) but was reviewed and filed away in a massive and unwieldy binder that served as the intern database since the organization’s inception 20 years earlier.
At the end of each internship, students completed a physical exit-interview form to be filed in...yes, you guessed it, the binder. Former interns often emailed me after they graduated, too, some requesting letters of recommendation, others hoping to let me know where they landed after college. None of this data was captured anywhere.
Use Data to Make Informed Programmatic Decisions
The organization I worked for was in the beginning stages of adopting Salesforce when I left. Imagine if we had a tool to integrate with our Salesforce solution to easily create forms to capture, track, and manage data to make our internship program more efficient. I’m certain the information we gathered on our physical introductory and exit interview forms could have been analyzed and used to inform the decisions we made about the program. Grant reporting would have been a breeze, and we could have saved ourselves the headache of unnecessary administrative work. Not to mention, I could have assigned tasks and managed projects in one place.
But we didn’t — we just used the binder.
If your story sounds similar to mine, you might find inspiration for using web forms to organize and manage data in the guide “Web Forms for Nonprofits 101”.