Nten recently released Collected Voices – Data Informed Nonprofits, a report summarizing a year long collaboration of staff at 18 nonprofits to discuss data collection, analysis and presentation concerns. Some major points:
- Nonprofits primarily collect data for funders. Often there isn’t enough focus on using data to evaluate programs/services to determine how well the organization is achieving its goals.
- Data by itself isn’t useful unless it is analyzed and presented clearly to decision makers. Program staff aren’t hired to data collection experts; they need to be guided why having reliable information is important
- Many of us ‘manage by intuition’ rather than by information.’ Relying on data is a much stronger approach.
- Silos aren’t only a problem within an organization but also between organizations. There is much to be gained by sharing data with other nonprofits, and learning from each other.
- Since so many of our systems need to connect with others, it’s important to choose software that ‘play well’ with other products, not that lock us into a proprietary platform.
- Is your data stored primarily within departments and not shared with each other? This can result in data redundancy and not knowing which information is accurate.
- How you can you present data clearly to influence future decisions? Having strong data is useless if you can’t streamline it for management to understand quickly.
- Many organizations use dashboards to easily share data internally and externally. This is a great approach, but it’s also important to periodically review data you’re collecting to make sure it is still relevant.
For more on this topic, join Nten’s Nonprofits and Data interest group or attend the session, How to Turn the Data Dream Into Reality on Wed, Mar. 12 (day before the start of the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference) in Washington DC.
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.