How we built an impact reporting database - Guest blog by Natalia Dabrowska from Veterans Aid
Over the past few years and with the passionate support of Eyes Down, we have built a bespoke database that is flexible, user-friendly and most importantly plays a key role in measuring the impact of our operations.
Our goal - to build a 360 degree CRM and impact reporting database
Rebuilding the existing database was a long-term project that we initiated in Summer 2015. After realising that no off-the-shelf, ready-made software will recognise and understand the complex support and assistance our Charity provides, we decided to build a completely new platform, employing innovative technologies.
Our goal was to create a powerful system that will ultimately serve as practical tool in demonstrating the social value of our work. Thankfully, we avoided strict project management arrangements – the communication and support from Eyes Down was flawless. That helped us concentrate on important matters, rather than demystifying paperwork and excel spreadsheets.
Our working model, Welfare to Wellbeing©, clearly defines the areas of our operations. Stuart and his team simply aligned the database with Veterans Aid’s mission and guided us in selecting appropriate and meaningful data categories.
The challenges we faced
For over 10 years Veterans Aid has been collecting raw data on our activities. The challenge was to move from capturing outputs towards assessing the medium-term outcomes and consequently realising our long-term impact. There weren’t many solutions or shortcuts that we could have taken. There is a range of free resources and advice available however none of these directly address the complexity of calculating impact, especially in a small to medium size charity.
Our goal was to create a powerful system that will ultimately serve as practical tool in demonstrating the social value of our work.
We are extremely satisfied with what was achieved. If I could give any advice it would be to set aside enough funds and time, particularly around data cleansing and migration as it took a substantial chunk of this project. Training and ongoing maintenance are always important items, but you should also focus on flexible solutions – ask yourself how easy it will be to make further upgrades in 3 or 5 years’ time. If your system is too rigid and flat to adapt, then look for another solution.
What we learned
Smaller charities are often experts in providing frontline services and making a change but too often we struggle to demonstrate impact because we focus entirely on helping clients, fundraising and paying salaries.
Responsible and proactive investment in technologies is certainly worth considering and could be phased over 1, 2 or 3 years. Our target date to go live with the new system changed at least two times but it was worth the wait.