Reporting is an essential tool for non-profit and social service organizations. How do you know you are getting the most out of your reporting? Knowing what you need—as well as what is possible—is the first step in maximizing potential.
Reporting for Social Services
No matter the profession, reporting and analytics plays an important role in assessments and growth. Health and human service organizations are no exception. Reporting enables programs to understand current capacity, forecast future needs, and identify valuable patterns for those they serve.
While it seems like a straightforward concept, it can quickly become complicated. There is more to it than simply recording what your program has administered. Effective reporting looks at the impact among sub-populations, influence of certain locations and demographics, and comparative analyses from previous reports.
There is power in knowledge; the more that reports can show about programs and initiatives, the better those programs can be crafted to meet the needs of those they serve.
What Do You Need From Reporting?
The first step in assessing (and improving) your reporting process is to ask: what does your organization need?
For most non-profits, the first answer that comes to mind is donor relations. Health and human service organizations often rely on donations to fund their programs. An important part of maintaining these donations is making sure the donors see the fruits of their funding. Reporting makes it possible to show what has come from the donations, whether it be in the form of how many meals were served at the homeless shelter, how many refugee families were successfully resettled, or how many victims were properly advocated for.
Quantifying results is a critical component of maintaining proper reports. Using hard numbers helps easily identify outcomes and understand the breadth and scope of programs. But what about results that are not easily quantifiable?
Overall happiness, improvement in quality of life, or other emotional effects, are outcomes that cannot be easily measured. The capability to convert these outcomes into quantifiable reports is what separates average tools from great ones. Successful reports are able to utilize mechanisms such as surveys to convert these results into quantified reports.
What is Possible from Reporting?
Knowing what you and your organization needs from reporting is only part of the equation. It is also valuable to know what is possible from reporting programs. How do you know you are utilizing your reports to their full potential if you are not even sure what that full potential is?
While all programs should have the capacity to input and export outcomes you have set, the most effective programs are able to go above and beyond. Qualities such as data exploration, group management, and data aggregation are the hallmarks of top-tier platforms.
Can your platform allow you to explore your data with different parameters? Customizable queries beyond the most common needs are what separate the good from the great. Data exploration allows programs to look at results in real-time and test possible hypotheses, such as the impact of gender, age, location, or even holiday seasons.
One problem health and human service organizations often run into is privacy and security. Reports sometimes contain sensitive information—especially when working with vulnerable populations—which means that data and analysis might be restricted to only a few team members.
While this work-around protects security and privacy, it may hinder the efforts of your non-profit, especially when colleagues are bottlenecked in producing reports. Effective platforms are able to circumvent this issue through group management. This means that organizations can restrict report access based on the user role, maintaining data security and client privacy while supporting internal organizational policies that define who may view restricted information.
The third hallmark of effective reporting is data aggregation. Can you easily and instantaneously aggregate based on the variables you need? Parameters should be able to be selected based on multiple groups, programs, diagnoses, and facilities. If your platform cannot aggregate your data, it may be a sign that it is time to upgrade your system.
Knowing When To Upgrade Your Reporting
So what if your current platform does not allow for some or all of the features listed above? It might be a sign that it is time to upgrade your system.
Reporting is tied to your case management system—the platform that allows social services to track and analyze client intake, resources, and outcomes. If your system feels out-of-date, chances are your case management is as well.
Our case management platform ClientTrack™ is the industry leading platform for health and human service organizations. For over thirty years, it has helped hundreds of organizations realize their potential and improve their services. Reach out here to learn more about ClientTrack and how it can help you maximize on your reports.