If it feels like everyone uses the term “data-driven organization”, you would be right! In the last thirty years, technology has rapidly increased and evolved, bringing data processes and systems along. In the world today, “the business of data” is rapidly becoming a new sector of the economy worldwide (Press, 2020). Clearly, data-driven organizations are on the rise and making data-driven decisions can help your organization, even amid a worldwide pandemic. Where can you start making these changes in your organization? First, DiLuzio (2020) suggests asking four questions to move towards incorporating data into your decisions:
- What are your organization’s goals?
- How can you collect the data to measure those goals?
- How will your organization share this data and communicate the results?
- What decisions can you make from this data?
Each of these questions addresses major topics at the core of your organization’s mission. Here are a few tips to become a data-driven organization:
- List the Data Your Organization Collects: Take an inventory of your current data. Data could include how many people you serve, volunteer hours, or funds raised, among countless program outputs and outcomes. Talk to other members of your organization to see what data they collect and make sure that your organization does not collect redundant information.
- Identify the Necessary Data that is Not Currently Being Collected: Think about the data that funders and stakeholders may have requested but is not currently being collected by your organization. Is this data relevant to your strategic priorities? Would gathering said data help you in your fundraising or marketing efforts?
- Identify Which Data Are Most Useful: After listing out your data, think about the usefulness of that information. Why are you collecting this data? What does the data mean to your organization? If you cannot answer these questions, then this data may no longer be relevant to your organization and it may be time to start collecting more useful information to tell your story.
- Create a System for Updating your Data: Next, think about how often you need to update your data. When do you collect new information? Do you administer surveys after major events? Do you track participants served by your programs? Make sure you know when it is time to update the data that you currently collect.
- Manage and Organize your Data: Collecting data alone is not enough to become a data-driven organization. Jones (2020) addresses another important aspect of this process: making sure your data is accessible and manageable – that you have a system and are able to access it when and where you need it. This does not have to be complex, just usable. Make sure you know what systems you use and how to use them, such as spreadsheet documents (e.g., Microsoft Excel) or a specialized data management platform (e.g., programs offered by HubSpot, Microsoft SQL, Salesforce, or Zoho). As you evaluate your data systems, think through how you plan to use the data. What reports will you need to generate? What decisions will this data inform? Organizations must become familiar with their system(s) and the data within them to be able to use that data quickly and efficiently.
Implementing these steps will help you and your organization start the data-driven journey, like these non-profit leaders and staff. This process will take time but will allow you to reap many benefits from harnessing your information!
Need Help with Your Data?
Becoming a data-driven organization can seem like a tall order, and in many ways, it is. Proper planning from the start will make your journey much easier. Research Evaluation Consulting specializes in learning about your organization and your data and creating a data-driven plan that is suited to your needs. We are a trusted evaluation expert for every step of the way, and we will help your organization navigate these changes as we have done for many organizations in the past. If you want more information or a 30-minute consultation, email us!
Press, G. (2020). 6 Predictions About Data In 2020 And The Coming Decade. Forbes. Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2020/01/06/6-predictions-about-data-in-2020-and-the-coming-decade/?sh=322b82174fc3
DiLuzio, E. (2020). Evaluation’s Role in a Data-Driven Reopening of Society. American Evaluation Association. Link: https://aea365.org/blog/evaluations-role-as-we-reopen-society-by-elizabeth-diluzio/
Jones, C. (2020). Digital Transformation: What It Means for Your Nonprofit and How to Get Started. Techsoup. Link: https://blog.techsoup.org/posts/digital-transformation-what-it-means-for-your-nonprofit-and-how-to-get-started
Stannard-Stockton, S. (2010). Getting Results: Outputs, Outcomes and Impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Link: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/getting_results_outputs_outcomes_impact
Stanford Social Innovation Review. (2021). Digital Transformation. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Link: https://ssir.org/videos/entry/digital_transformation#
Stanford Social Innovation Review. (2021). The Power of Data. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Link: https://ssir.org/videos/entry/the_power_of_data.