A Look at Why Nonprofits Need to Care About Data Lifecycle Management

A Look at Why Nonprofits Need to Care About Data Lifecycle Management

Omatic Software

In the olden days, before computers, donor information was kept on rolodex cards or in individual files. Fast forward to today and nonprofits have much more robust tools to manage their data. Instead of relying on a single person’s memory, or multiple spreadsheets, many successful nonprofits rely on databases and a myriad of other software tools to help meet their data needs.

Managing data isn’t just about housing it and maintaining the quality of that data. In fact, data needs to be managed throughout its entire lifecycle in order to maximize its usefulness. The amount of data retained by nonprofits and other organizations is expected to double every two years for the next decade, and so controlling such a large amount of data will become an immense challenge for data managers.

Faced with such impressive data growth, nonprofits need to recognize the need to adopt solutions and practices that not only control costs and reduce risk, but most importantly effectively manage a wide variety of data types to drive actionable insights into donors and prospects. Because of the amount of data facing nonprofits, here are several reasons why you need to learn about the importance of data lifecycle management.

What is data lifecycle management?

Data lifecycle management is just as it sounds; it is a policy-based approach to managing the flow of an information system's data throughout its entire lifecycle. The lifecycle simply refers to every single stage impacting a piece of data from creation until retirement. The lifecycle for data crosses different application systems, databases, and storage media.

The best practices concerning data lifecycle management suggest that data needs a framework that provides for the most effective enterprise business decisions, regardless of phase during the data’s lifecycle. According to Gartner, the cycle is made up of phases of activity including create, use, share, update, archive, store and dispose.

Without a fully realized approach to data lifecycle management, organizations face huge risks, including out of hand storage costs, vulnerability to security breaches, and noncompliance with regulatory requirements. Here’s a deeper look at why nonprofits need to become familiar with and implement their own data lifecycle management.

Minimizing Costs

An effective data lifecycle management strategy is one that aims to protect, preserve and manage data at all times. As the amount of data begins to grow, the natural response is to purchase more storage solutions. Unfortunately, that mindset in regards to a nonprofit’s data only leads to skyrocketing costs regarding said storage.

A data lifecycle management strategy places value on your data as it moves through the various stages of its lifecycle. Once data is no longer useful for production environments, it can be moved to less costly storage, such as in the cloud or in a hosted off-site tape vault.

Not only is the cost of storage a concern for nonprofits, but so is the overall value these organizations can get from their data by how quickly they can get it. Nonprofits must be able to deliver data, services and applications much faster than ever before.

With a strong emphasis on data lifecycle management, maintaining the quality of data makes everyone in the organization more productive as a whole. By giving individuals across multiple teams the ability to access data at will, you are also promoting better collaboration across the nonprofit.


When any organization — let alone nonprofits — are victim to a data breach or other security exploit, the results have the potential to be somewhat devastating. The harm caused by data breaches can be extremely costly and can also cause irreversible damage to the public’s perception of the nonprofit organization.

Due to nonprofits relying on a blend of on-premise solutions and off-site cloud services to store and recover their massive amounts of data, security has become inherently more complex. Over the last few decades, cybercriminals and others who would do harm to a nonprofit have become far more sophisticated in their means to exploit organizations for their own benefit and agenda. These individuals operate by preying upon any real or perceived gaps in an organization’s method of protecting their data.

A data lifecycle management strategy should incorporate data protection as one of its core functions and purposes. As data is dispersed across a large ecosystem of tools and software, it’s critical to preserve and protect this data from malicious agents.


Data growth, particularly of unstructured data such as email, videos, photos, audio files, and many other kinds of business documents, is creating new challenges for the nonprofit organization. In order to meet requirements for regulatory compliance, data managers, compliance officers and legal departments must work in tandem with one another to make sure the organization has a proper grasp of their data. Regulatory entities expect that organizations must be able to react quickly and respond accurately to demands for data access.

It can feel quite intimidating when thinking of the challenges required to build a comprehensive data lifecycle management plan that incorporates a level of information governance. This is particularly the case in today’s complex environment, where data teams face a wide range of compliance issues.

Building and executing a comprehensive data lifecycle management plan is most certainly a challenge, but investing in creating one is still important to a nonprofit.


Data managers are faced with the reality that they must manage their data without increasing costs, emphasizing data security, and meet rigorous data compliance requirements. As time presses on, harnessing the power of data is necessary for the growth and survival of nonprofit organizations.

With data lifecycle management, you can take inventory of which types of data need to be accessed most often and which data can be stored on cheaper mediums to save money, but still have the data accessible in the event of some type of disaster. Nonprofits should have their own data lifecycle management strategy in order to strengthen and properly protect their data at every phase of its lifecycle.

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