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How to build effective nonprofit impact reports

Data Management | Data Aggregation | impact report

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Unmesh is the founder of the social impact measurement company, SoPact and co-founder of the Nonprofit, Ektta. SoPact is a personal vision that grew from 28 years of experience in technology, management, and the social sector.

SoPact aims to transform the global social sector efficiency through data-driven, collective impact measurement and scale social businesses, foundations, government agencies, development projects, CSR initiatives, and impact investments for the benefit of their clients.

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Posted on 2017-12-15

The US nonprofits spend more than $1.2 Billion just building impact reports and not counting time spent in inefficient data gathering from disparate systems. In spite of such a staggering number of administrative time, most nonprofits struggle to provide useful reports to address reporting requirements set by foundations or government grants.  Often different programs get funded by various sources of funding foundation grants, individual donors, etc.  For institutional funding, they are required to provide funder specific reports that involve mutually agreed upon output or outcome results.  To examine why this is a problematic issue first take a look at a current state of an average non-profit.


Often for these nonprofits,

  • Have internal IT staff that tend to aggregated data in different systems such as Excel, Salesforce, custom apps, accounting, and HR. 
  • Often they data are operational such as activities and outputs.
  • Aggregating primary data and providing unique beneficiary results by services is time-consuming. 
  • Also, these systems cannot measure long-term progress. If outcome, output data are stored in a different system, it is difficult to track historical results.

Where to start?

There are four stages of data management for the impact management: COLLECT, COMPILE, ANALYZE, and COMMUNICATE. Selecting fewer tools for them is efficient and effective. In other words, some tools overlap between the stages and by choosing those that do, you can minimize the number of tools used by your organization. Keep the process as simple as possible.

In the previous exercise, you mapped out some of your capacity requirements for various tool types. Refer back to the selections you made and look for their corresponding sections in the following chart. Remember to involve the users in the selection process as much as possible.

Data Collection Tools 

Examples of tools for data collection depends on the type of data required.

Examine where data is coming from and how? See table for some example tools.

  • Is it survey based? Survey can be paper-based or forms tools based
  • Is it online or offline? Developing countries may need offline data collection possibilities.
  • Is it on-premise data collection? Data collected in office.
  • Do you have a customized data management system? Large organizations and foundations often invest in a customized solution for data management.
  • Do you have case management systems?
  • Using multiple tools to collect data can make the compilation of data particularly challenging.
Always keep users of the system in mind while selecting data collection tool to have as clean data as possible.

Data for Compilation & Analysis

The compilation of data from the field can be particularly challenging due to the use of multiple tools. Using systems like paper, excel, google sheets, survey tools, CRM like Salesforce, etc. to collect data creates DATA ISLANDS.

We firmly believe that the downstream partner/organization who is collecting field data, aggregating them by funder requirements and managing its performance to meet theory of change (TOC) should have better and fewer tools so that they can control disaggregated data efficiently for actionable results. 4.png


Use seamless integration of multiple systems into a single platform to reduce time spent on consolidating data. This strategy allows organizations to spend more time analyzing data, build impact reporting engine that can rapidly integrate qualitative and quantitative outcome to TAKE ACTION.

While this practice is very prevalent in corporate IT world, it can be useful in the social sector IT as well.

To learn more about effective impact data aggregation approach, please read more here at Blueprint of Future M&E Software and Impact Management Platforms 

See Impact Cloud