As long as funders are providing nonprofits with funding, and nonprofits are providing valuable programs and services for the common good, data will be an integral part of evidence that suggests what kind of impact is being made within communities.
At ResultsLab, we often hear how daunting it can feel for our clients to be tasked with gathering and analyzing data not only for evaluation purposes but also for day-to-day operations. What kind of data should you be gathering? Where do you find it? Who do you need to talk to in order to get the right data?
Don’t fret – if your team members need to build their capacity with data collection and analysis, start where you’re at. For example:
- Start by doing a data audit. What data are you already collecting? Surveys, interviews, end-of-program projects, donor giving profiles, reports – the list goes on and on. Having your team do a data audit can uncover which data is actually being utilized and which pieces aren’t. If you find that you’re collecting a ton of unused data, stop collecting it – this will help your team focus on what’s most important in order for them to learn, improve programs/services, and meet stakeholder needs.
- Practice norming observational data together. The great thing about observational data is that it’s all around us. The not so great part of observational data is that it can be quite subjective – it’s likely that one teammate will think one thing and another teammate will have a different perspective. Therefore, as a team, go see one of your programs/services in action. Before you go, tell your team to observe a,b, and c areas – whatever areas that you’d like to gather data for. Afterward, have them fill in a reflection document (if you don’t have one that you currently use, you could do a simple reflection like “How did it look/sound/feel? Are we accomplishing our goals in a,b,c, areas?”). Carve out 30 minutes to debrief and share out. Documentation is key here. If you document your observations consistently, you can start to build evidence, and look at trends over time.
- Begin to incorporate data-focused discussions into your team meetings. Introduce a new agenda item for your team meeting where one teammate a week shares a piece of data they gathered – from observational data, email campaign open rates, to funding benchmarks and goals – whatever data you’d like to review and discuss as a team. Ask them to share what the data means to them and for your team’s goals. Building in intentional data discussions will undoubtedly help foster a data-driven mindset among your teammates where they will begin to think about how the data they gather can help them learn and improve programs/services.
Do these seem like helpful strategies for building your team’s capacity with data gathering and analysis? If you’d like more information, feel free to schedule a free 45-minute consultation with someone from our team of experts to learn more about how we help nonprofits learn to measure and maximize their outcomes.