How Knowledge Management is Used in Non-profit Organizations

By Monica Kohn   |   September 2, 2020
Knowledge Management in Nonprofit Organizations
Knowledge management (KM) matters because it boosts the efficiency of an organization’s decision-making ability. That’s important whether you’re a for-profit or nonprofit organization.

KM can be theoretical and complex, but it’s also practical and simple. For instance, if you’ve ever compiled an email list or devised a naming system for documents, you’ve managed knowledge. When collecting, storing, and sharing knowledge causes chaos or keeps your nonprofit from meeting its goals, a cloud-based knowledge management solution can lead to better efficiency and outcomes.

Knowledge Management in Nonprofit Organizations

There are four key components of KM: people, processes, tools, and strategy. Nonprofits, like all organizations, need:

  • People to support and embrace knowledge sharing.
  • Processes to manage and measure knowledge flows.
  • Content tools that connect the right information to the right people at the right time.
  • A KM strategy that meets their needs and mission.

KM for nonprofits differs from for-profit sectors in crucial, practical ways. For example, most nonprofits now have a website where visitors can learn about their programs, make donations, sign up for newsletters, and buy branded merchandise. A lot of information on stakeholders can be gathered in this way which helps the nonprofit understand their needs and interests.

Unlike corporations or other for-profit enterprises, though, KM solutions for nonprofits typically need to address:

  • The needs of a smaller organization.
  • The culture of a nonprofit entity.
  • The needs of an organization that has a bottom line other than shareholder value.
  • The operational differences of a nonprofit.

The right internal knowledge management solution for your nonprofit is the one that effectively gathers, organizes, and shares information while nurturing a more collaborative and transparent environment in which team members understand how what they do makes the world a better place.

Knowledge Management Solutions

Well-managed knowledge makes work easier and success more likely for nonprofits. The challenge is in finding the right information tool for the job. A nonprofit knowledge management solution must:

  • Improve all levels of the nonprofit’s operations. When you capture and share relevant information between people and departments the result is a more effective approach to decision-making and organizational growth.
  • Help foster innovation among staff and volunteers. Staff engagement is improved, and people are encouraged to share feedback and suggestions for the knowledge base.
  • Prevent the loss of organizational wisdom. When people leave, their knowledge and insights remain behind for future staff and volunteers to access and use.

Finally, by investing in cloud-based KM software, a nonprofit can better meet the needs of the community and ensure the sustainability of projects.

Knowledge Management for Nonprofit Organizations

Every nonprofit has a wealth of knowledge; it just tends to be spread across print, digital, and people’s memories. KM helps eliminate information chaos by providing a structure to how tacit knowledge is organized.

Knowledge-based management in nonprofits provides a balance between people and technology. KM systems are applications of the nonprofit’s computer-based communications and information systems (aka CIS) to support various KM processes. They include databases, directories, and networks, all designed to give people the knowledge they need to best do their tasks. Information from physical documents, emails, spreadsheets, thumb drives, shared online documents, and more, is brought together in one centralized location where anyone can access it.

Nonprofit organizations find themselves in an increasingly competitive environment for funding, staff, volunteers, and donations. Adopting technologies that improve strategic performance, staff retention, and service delivery can support organizational improvement. As institutional knowledge is one of your nonprofit’s most valuable assets, investing in knowledge management tools today can position your organization to make better decisions and deliver more value to your donors and beneficiaries far into the future.