Have you read Idealware’s latest report, Nonprofit Performance Management: Using Data to Measure and Improve Programs, which discusses these 6 steps for strong data collection:
- Define a goal for your data – what will best demonstrate the value of your programs?
- Identify specific data elements to help you reach that goal
- Store data in a way that’s accessible (hint – use a web based system that can be easily shared)
- Establish a way to gather data (use required fields for the information that’s most important)
- Report and analyze what the data is telling you (many nonprofits fail to take this critical step)
- Take action based on what you’ve learned (if you’re not going to do this, then why collect data at all?)
Make sure you explain to staff why having good data is important. It may be obvious to you but may not be to them. Also, run regular (at least quarterly but monthly is better) reports to verify that data is being entered correctly (don’t wait until it’s time to do the annual report, when it’s too late to clean the data).
I encourage you to download Idealware’s report, which includes many examples of organizations that are doing this well.
If you do this well, maybe next year your organization will be one of the semifinalists for the Nonprofit Excellence Awards (I’m on the judging committee), all which understand the importance of good data collection practices.
Also see my post earlier this year, Do You Work For a Data Driven Nonprofit. To again reinforce: If your organization does great work but you don’t have the data to prove it, you’re missing an opportunity to improve donor retention, attract new supporters and effectively measure your nonprofit’s impact on the communities you serve.
If you only collect good data when a grant requires you to do so, you’re missing the boat.
(Thanks also to Exponent Partners, who sponsored this report.)