How to Create a Data Migration Plan for Nonprofits

If you work in the health and human services sector, your organization likely generates a lot of data. But if you don’t have the right solutions in place, you may be missing out on gleaning critical insights that can help you streamline operations, improve efficiency, and ultimately deliver better outcomes to your clients. Advancements in case management software can help you better store and interpret your data — but adopting a new system is easier said than done. 

Migrating your data to a new platform may be a big undertaking, but it’s an initiative that’s well worth your time and resources. Here at CaseWorthy, we believe in the power of data, and our experts have assisted hundreds of organizations as they transitioned to a new system. One thing we’ve learned? Having a solid data migration plan in place makes a huge difference in ensuring nothing slips through the cracks as you make the switch.

Today, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about data migration, how to prepare for data migration, and what steps to take during the transition. 

What is Data Migration?

Data migration refers to the process of transferring data from one system or platform to another.  Whether it’s transitioning from legacy systems, flat files, or even spreadsheets, having a well-defined migration strategy is essential. And when you migrate to a system that better suits your needs, you can unlock the full potential of the story your data is begging you to tell. Some organizations prefer to spearhead data migration in-house, while others opt for outsourcing migration services.

How to Create a Data Migration Plan for Nonprofits

Why is Data Migration Relevant for Nonprofits?

Technology plays a vital role in ensuring you’re tracking expenditures and other resources while demonstrating how your efforts are impacting your community. As your organization flexes to meet the needs of your community members, you may find your old processes and systems are serving you and your clients. When the time comes to ditch your legacy method of processing data, you’ll need a migration plan to ensure all your historical information is successfully ported to your new platform. 


Step One:

Identify Goals for Your New System

Establishing goals is the first step to ensuring your data migration is successful — and it’s arguably the most important. Whether you are migrating from an old case management platform or you’re currently managing data in spreadsheets, having a well-defined plan and clear goals will set expectations for a smooth transition to a new software solution.

Begin by assessing your current data management systems and identify any limitations or challenges you may be facing. This includes taking stock of the software platforms you’re currently using, as well as any spreadsheets or flat file databases that house your valuable data. Understanding the shortcomings of these systems will help you determine what tools and resources you need in order to improve your data management processes. Plus, this will help as you prepare your data for migration.

No matter why you’re making the switch to a new system, keep those reasons at the forefront as you establish a data migration strategy. If you know how you’ll be using your data in the future, cleaning and transferring your data will be that much easier. 



Step Two:

Select Your New Solution

No two organizations are alike, and you need a system that will serve you and your clients well. With your goals in mind, build a wishlist of features for your new software or platform.

Having trouble deciding?


Step Three:

Do What You Can to Prepare for Data Migration

Data migration can be a complex and daunting process, but with careful planning and preparation, nonprofits can ensure a smooth and successful transition to a new cloud-based case management software solution. Here are some key steps you should consider when preparing for a data migration process:

  1. Develop a migration roadmap and timeline: Create a detailed migration strategy that outlines the sequence of migration tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. 
  2. Assess and Cleanse Your Current Data: Before embarking on a data migration journey, it’s crucial to assess the quality and integrity of your existing data. Take the time to review and clean up your data, eliminating duplicates, outdated records, and any inaccuracies. This process will help you start fresh with clean data and reduce the risk of transferring incorrect and unnecessary information to your new system.
  3. Plan for Training and Ongoing Management: A successful data migration process goes beyond the initial data transfer. Plan for additional training and ongoing management on a regular basis to ensure that your staff is comfortable using the new case management software and that data is continuously updated and maintained. This may involve providing training sessions or external resources to help your staff adapt to the new system. Make sure you have time set aside for educating staff members before you start the transition.

Step Four:

Decide Which Data Migration Strategy Is Right for You

There are two primary migration strategies commonly used by nonprofit organizations: the big-bang approach and the phased approach.

The big-bang approach involves migrating all your data at once, typically over a short period. This strategy is best suited for smaller nonprofits with limited data volume and fewer dependencies between different data sets. It offers a quicker transition to the new platform but can also pose higher risks if any issues arise during the migration process. It is crucial to conduct thorough testing and validation before executing a big-bang migration to ensure data accuracy and completeness.

On the other hand, the phased (or trickle) approach involves breaking down the migration process into smaller, manageable phases. This strategy is particularly beneficial for larger nonprofits with complex data structures and interdependencies. By migrating data in increments, you can minimize disruption to daily operations and enable a more gradual transition for staff members. It also allows for any issues or challenges to be identified and addressed early on in the process, reducing the overall risks associated with the migration. However, the phased approach typically takes longer than the big-bang approach.

With your prep work done and strategy selected, it’s time to migrate your data.


Step Five:

Migrate Your Data
  1. Create a Data Mapping Plan: Data mapping is the process of matching fields from the source system to the target system. It’s important to create a data mapping plan that clearly defines how each field in your current system will be mapped to the corresponding field in the new system. This ensures that data is migrated accurately and consistently, avoiding any data loss or confusion.
  2. Extract your data: Once you have a clear plan in place, it’s time to execute the migration. At this stage, your data should already be cleansed and ready to extract. Make sure you gather data from all sources before porting and uploading the data to your new system, and ensure it’s in a compatible format.
  3. Conduct a pilot migration: If you can, we recommend performing a pilot migration before officially integrating data with your new system. This allows you to test the migration process and evaluate the accuracy and completeness of the migrated data. Identify any issues or gaps that need to be addressed before proceeding with the full migration.
  4. Load your data: Now, it’s time for the exciting part: Refer back to your data mapping plan and start porting your data to the new system. Depending on the complexity of your data, your chosen migration strategy, and your new system’s level of functionality and support, this process can be automated or may require manual intervention.
  5. Validate and verify the migrated data: After the migration, validate and verify the accuracy and completeness of the migrated data. This includes performing data integrity checks, comparing the migrated data against the source data, and conducting sample tests to ensure that all critical information is successfully transferred.
  6. Test your system. Before your organization officially goes live with the new cloud-based case management software, test your new system to ensure it’s configured to meet your specific needs. Testing is an essential step in the data migration process and plays a vital role in avoiding any potential issues or disruptions once the system is in full operation.
  7. Train and educate staff: As you transition to the new platform, provide training and education to your staff members. Familiarize them with the new system’s features, functionalities, and best practices for data entry and management. This will ensure your team’s smooth transition to the new platform and maximize its benefits for your organization.
  8. Monitor and manage the ongoing migration: After the initial data migration, it’s important to establish an ongoing management strategy. This includes regularly monitoring the performance of the new platform, addressing any issues that arise, and adapting the system to evolving needs. Stay proactive in managing data migration-related challenges and continue to optimize and enhance your data management processes.

Data migration is a complex process, but with the proper planning and plenty of support, you’ll be well-equipped to make the transition.

How to Create a Data Migration Plan for Nonprofits

Thinking about Switching to CaseWorthy? We’re Here for You.

By moving to a unified case management platform like CaseWorthy, nonprofits like yours can centralize data and streamline operations, so you can focus on your mission with minimal administrative burden.

If you’re looking at this long to-do list and you feel overwhelmed — we’re here to help. Making the switch to a new system might seem overwhelming, but having a better grasp on your data and the story it tells is well worth it. As a leading provider of nonprofit data management solutions, we’ve assisted hundreds of organizations with their data migration plans. If you work in the nonprofit sector and you’re in the market for a new case management solution, we’d love to meet you. 

At CaseWorthy, our top-notch training and implementation team members will be with you every step of the way. 

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Learn why health and human service organizations thrive with CaseWorthy. Our expert team is ready to consult with you on the unique needs of your organization.