January 28, 2015

Managing a nonprofit’s information pipeline


Jeffrey W. Steed

Jeffrey W. Steed

The key to simplifying a complex management task is to break the effort into smaller, manageable parts. The coordination of information to various constituent groups of a nonprofit can be a considerable task.

Because of its complexity, the task must be considered in smaller, manageable parts for the sake of feasible coordination. 

The management of the information flow may be accomplished by a staff person that focuses solely on that coordination responsibility, by multiple staff persons with various other responsibilities, or it may be wrapped into the job description of a one-person office, specifically the executive director. 

Regardless, managing the information pipeline is a critical organizational task that cannot be ignored or minimized. 

The information flow must contain the right amount at the right time in the right context. 

The right amount of information must be kept in mind to prevent information saturation, which can complicate a situation.

On the other hand, too little information could insult the receiver or cause the receiver to question the nonprofit's motives in providing so little information. 

The right time must also be considered with the information flow. If the information becomes dated quickly - like financial data or data to donors about year-end giving opportunities - organizational priorities may need to change temporarily to meet such deadlines. 

Finally, context must be considered in managing the information pipeline related to the constituent and the method for the communication of the information.

For example, donors typically can receive financial highlights in a mailed annual report, while the full audit report can be made available upon request.

A coordination matrix can be useful in helping nonprofits manage information flow based on specific constituents and specific information that needs to be communicated within the organization. 

The hypothetical constituents of the coordination matrix are as follows:

  • Advisory boards
  • Auditors
  • Beneficiaries or clients
  • Board members
  • Committee members
  • Current donors
  • Prospective donors
  • Legal advisors
  • Marketing advisors
  • Staff
  • Vendors (so they can better meet organizational needs)
  • Volunteers

The hypothetical types of information that need to be distributed periodically are as follows:

  • Financial Highlights and investment performance
  • Impact stories - stories that demonstrate the impact the nonprofit has on beneficiaries
  • Current and planned-giving opportunities
  • Status of the strategic organizational plan
  • Legal changes and notifications
  • Upcoming events
  • Deadlines and giving opportunities
  • Current state-office technology
  • Disaster recovery plan
  • Event result summary
  • Annual audit

The intersecting cells of the constituents and types of information on the coordination matrix provide the medium of communication, the deadline for reporting the information and the person that is responsible for that task. 

The data would need to be adapted to an organization's own context.

When a coordination matrix is developed, the staff needs to examine it at least quarterly to ensure all the various parts are being monitored and executed. 

Also, through such examination, the coordination matrix will likely need to be adjusted.

Coordinating and properly managing the information pipeline is crucial for managing a nonprofit's reputation among its constituents.

Jeffrey W. Steed is vice president of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation and Christian Ministry Services.

Comment on this article


This article was simple and to the point. Thanks for your input.

Thank you for writing an interesting article.
Organization and coordination of information flows is very important, too, for building a strong web-content program, an important aspect of today's communications environment. Your proposal that organizations must focus upon the function of information management is very useful.

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