Charities have been encouraged to make sure they are using their various data sets effectively.

According to Peter Watson, information and systems manager at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, good data management is “essential”, as it enables third sector bodies to understand their users’ needs and the impact of their work.

He acknowledged that getting to grips with large quantities of information can be “daunting and overwhelming”. However, he told the Guardian there are a number of ways in which they can make sense of it and use it in a constructive way.

For instance, Mr Watson said that once organisations have built up a significant body of data, they can analyse it and use it to group data into categories.

This, he stated, would enable them to find out relevant trends and patterns that could prove invaluable when it comes to improving services and determining future policy and research activities.

Identifying recurring themes could also help charities manage their relationships with supporters, clients, partners and stakeholders more effectively, with each group receiving targeted and relevant communications.

Mr Watson went on to insist that if a charity puts a data management system in place, it must make sure every member of staff knows how to use it properly.

“Systems are only as good as the people who use them, so charities need to support staff in recording data and running reports,” he commented.

“Support can happen at staff induction, in training, through telephone support and clear written guidance.”

Mr Watson added that any data management system must be reviewed on a regular basis, so charities can work out how useful it is and if improvements could be made.

He stated that getting feedback from stakeholders and system users would be one good way to see if the system is delivering results, as the findings could prompt an organisation to “improve existing fields and add new fields if necessary”.

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