Collecting, tracking, and managing nonprofit data allow you to measure and quantify the good work your organization does for your community. When you have a handle on your data, you will be equipped to make educated and strategic decisions about what comes next for specific programs and your organization as a whole.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to use your data effectively. By breaking down data into three distinct categories, you can see why each type is important to your nonprofit’s success.
At a macro level, the data you should track are your outputs, outcomes, and overall impact. Let’s explore each of these data categories:
Impact can be difficult to understand and even harder to quantify. Essentially, impact indicates how close your organization is to fulfilling its purpose. To truly understand and measure your impact, you’ll need to track the right data points.
Within the three main categories of nonprofit data, there’s a lot of information available. How can your nonprofit prioritize what data to track? These five strategies can help guide your nonprofit data collection, tracking, and analysis.
Funding is the backbone of nonprofits and their operations, and the data you track should help lead to more funding. Highlighting data that tells a success story about your organization can help give supporters a reason to donate.
The key to recurring, reliable funding is collecting and reporting on the data your funders want to see. Donors aren’t just interested in outputs. They also want to see the outcomes associated with them. From your outputs and outcomes, determine how you can weave these data points together to build a picture of progress and change to prove that you are doing good work for your community.
Measuring your organization’s impact can be a challenge that requires taking a closer look at your outcomes and how they relate to your outputs.
For example, if your nonprofit focuses on motivating smoking cessation, your goal would be that the people you serve eventually exit or graduate from your nonprofit’s course because they no longer need your services. Ask yourself what your organization is doing to ensure that the people in the program have the tools to not take up smoking again, and how your program is working to solve the overarching problem in your community.
In this example, impact can be measured as the number of people who finish your nonprofit’s program and do not resume smoking. To measure impact, your organization could record the number of people who graduate from your program and periodically reach out to them with surveys or questionnaires asking if they stopped smoking. Additionally, your organization can track the overall smoking rates in your community before and after you start your program to measure your broader impact.
To accurately show your nonprofit’s impact, find data that shows that your nonprofit is solving temporary issues and making lasting changes in the community you’re serving.
Fulfilling your purpose is the reason you started your nonprofit in the first place. It only makes sense to track data showcasing why participants need your services, how your organization supports them in the short term, and how you are transforming people’s lives in the long term.
While the vast majority of your data should be quantitative, this type can also be qualitative. For example, you might collect data by interviewing supporters about their experiences with your nonprofit so you can share powerful testimonies. Share real stories to demonstrate how your services are truly changing their lives throughout their participation in your programs.
Your nonprofit will inevitably face challenges as you work to make lasting change. While it’s normal to occasionally run into issues, you can use data to get your organization back on track.
Track data during times when your organization is going through extensive challenges to see what is contributing to these setbacks. Then, you’ll have a better idea of what you can do to avoid them going forward. Don’t be afraid to document the things that didn’t go according to plan. Remember that your stakeholders are interested in knowing the truth about your work which includes the good and the bad.
Your organization should be able to visualize your operations from an end-to-end point of view. In other words, you should be able to track the journey a program participant goes through from the beginning to the end of your program.
Your organization can track this data by:
By taking on an external perspective of your organization, you can see the inner workings of each program, how they serve your clients, and how they work together to benefit your organization as a whole. Tracking this data is the only way to truly understand what’s working, what you can improve, and how to expand your program’s offerings.
While these are by no means the only types of data your organization should be tracking, they provide a great starting point. Consider these data points to check that your organization is tracking what it needs to in order to secure more funding, resources, and support in the future.
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