Matthew K

At our meeting last week, Ryan and I were asked to organize an access sheet that was so confusing, it made an Erfle test seem like a walk in the park. So as everyone can see by my feeble attempt at humor, the quest for implementing a new program continues with the ladies from Project S.H.A.R.E. During the meeting, Ryan and I met with Elaine and Pam to discuss more options regarding the implementation of a competent data management system. We introduced them to new ideas; ideas Ryan and I learned about through contacting other non profit associations around the local community, as well as Jenn Ross from PANO.

Ms. Ross offered some great suggestions, and programs that might be helpful for a small non-profit such as Project S.H.A.R.E. She also stressed the importance of contacting other non profit organizations, that have similar operations to Project S.H.A.R.E., to discover what programs are used by these comparable organizations. However, Pam brought up an interesting point when we were discussing this issue. She began to explain that while Project S.H.A.R.E. is going through some difficulties right now, this organization is somewhat of a pioneer in this specific sector, in terms of how they operate. There are organizations that exist that simply collect food, with the primary object of distributing this inventory to food banks in local communities. Food banks then exist to distribute these goods to the consumers in need. Project S.H.A.R.E. is unique in that they encompass both of these activities, and therefore Elaine and Pam have a difficult time in contacting organizations that operate in the same manner. Elaine and Pam both firmly believe that when these frustrations are settled, they will then be able to share their experiences with future organizations that share the same passion.

However, something obviously needs to be done, as this system is causing problems at the management level, and is beginning to funneling down to the volunteers as well. Elaine keeps saying that she can see a solution for this data management problem that she desires, in her head, but that she is having difficulty in translating this vision into a concrete system of operation. However, because there are still large inconsistencies that exist, volunteers are beginning to suffer as well. Two weeks ago, a volunteer, whom Elaine and Pam adore, made a mistake when working with the donor list, and accidentally deleted all the names. This poor woman became so distraught at the thought of making this mistake, that she now is too timid to come back in and volunteer with the organization. I have a firm belief, that if this organization implements a new program, there can be a systematic and consistent way of managing this data. Everyone in the organization, including volunteers, can then be trained to handle these daily operations, without having to worry about problems such as deleting a donor list. If this frustration is starting to affect the volunteers, that will be detrimental to Project S.H.A.R.E., because as our class had discussed last week, these people are important constituents to a non-profit.

As of last week (4/21), Ryan and I, as well as the staff from Project SHARE, continued to search for an efficient data management system. While decisions have not been made, we are making progress, in terms of giving this organization some solutions that they can pursue in the future.

As our NPM class completed our last segment on evaluating a non-profit, Ryan and I realized a connection that exists between the Sowa’s article on the MIMNOE model and Project SHARE. Through this model, Sowa emphasized the importance of evaluating the management capacity of an organization. Through these measures, a company is supposed to make a link between the strategies they use, and the mission they have set out to complete. Involved with this link are the processes and specific operations of an organization, including IT systems, in order to get an overall sense of the effectiveness of an organization, at least from a quantitative sense. From an objective standpoint, the systems implemented into Project SHARE should accurately and efficiently record financial information, inventories, donor lists etc. However, with their high turnover rate, this organization does not have the proper systems in place to accomplish this task.

Furthermore, the evaluation of management capacity from a perceptual viewpoint is suffering as well. Employees, both at the management and staff level, view their current system as disorderly, confusing, and ineffective. Pam Bream, a recent hire of the organization, actually told Ryan and I how hard it has been adjusting to such an inefficient system, as I’m sure many of the new volunteers/hires feel the same way. Not only are their linkage problems with the sheets of information that are being created, but these staff members also have a lack of knowledge when it comes to knowing the basic operations of these programs.

It is not my objective to be overly critical of this organization. I am just pointing out the problems that Project SHARE is facing and must deal with in the near future. Ryan and I have been in contact with local agencies, as well as speakers from our class (Jennifer Ross), in order to get a better sense of some solutions. We are slowly narrowing down our options, and are hoping to convince Elaine and her staff to choose one before our time here at Dickinson is done.

Over the past couple of weeks, Ryan and I have been working on setting up a data management system for Elaine. Until now, they have been using Microsoft Excel and Access to do most of their recording. Each Friday, when we met, we have been helping the staff learn general functions of the program, in order to allow them to become familiar and more efficient with setting up sheets of information.

However, there is a glaring problem that is rapidly occurring with this type of system. Because non-profits typically have a higher employee turnover rate due to the amount of volunteers involved (Project S.H.A.R.E. being no exception), there is a lack of consistency with this record keeping. This is demonstrated by the large amounts of sheets that have been created over the years, many of which are random sheets of information that have been created at random times.

Ryan and I feel it is imperative that Project S.H.A.R.E. being an implementation process of a more competent data management system. This will allow the organization to see first hand the condition of their organization at any given moment. Furthermore, this will allow them to assess their progress, and to see if their current strategies are matching up to the expectations of their mission. While Elaine has been unsure of what method to use, Ryan and I have been pushing for a system known as Peachtree. This system would be beneficial, as its programs are tailored for a non-profit organization. Not only would information be kept in an organized and efficient manner, but the program would also be user friendly, making it easy for new volunteers to adapt to this process.

At times, the process of encouraging a new system has been frustrating. However, working with Elaine and her staff has been great, and experiencing the daily frustrations of a non-profit have been instrumental in furthering my education. I am confident that changes will occur very shortly, and look forward in lending any help I can.

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