Data for Good – from the Nonprofit Blog Carnival

Lori Halley 27 June 2013 0 comments


We’re the proud hosts of the June Nonprofit Blog Carnival and it’s all about data.

For some non-profits, all the talk about transparency and outcomes measurement makes them feel they are on a dizzying data ride. What should you measure? How much, how often? What conclusions are you drawing and how can you best present these to your constituents?

To help, this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival round-up offers up some great advice for the data-challenged. I’d like to thank all of the bloggers who contributed this month. There were many helpful submissions that looked at, for example:

  • what data actually matters to non-profits; 
  • measurement tips and techniques, including benchmarking;
  • advice on becoming decisive to avoid “outcomes measurement madness";
  • guidance on evaluating and demonstrating program effectiveness;
  • tips on using dashboards to better communicate data to your constituents;
  • cautions around being careful about the conclusions you draw from your data.

Carnival Round-up

Have a look through the carnival line-up and let us know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. 

"Decisive" Reveals How We Use and Misuse Data

Joanne Fritz (Guide to Nonprofits, About.com) has been reading Chip and Dan Heath’s book: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, and tells us:

I was most drawn to the revelations about how, even when we have information or data in front of us, we can make mistakes. With the nonprofit world turning more and more to collecting and basing decisions on data, the Heaths' warnings about it lit up for me.

They suggest asking, "does the data make sense?" That implies that whatever tools or analytics we use, we always have to find the patterns and question whether the information all hangs together and really produces conclusions that we can trust.

Data is good, as long as it's balanced with a very human process. WRAP is a great start.

What are you doing with your non-profit data?

Erik Anderson (Donor Dreams Blog) dares to suggest: If you are collecting data on your non-profit organization’s performance and doing nothing with it, then you should be tarred and feathered.” Erik goes on to note: The “WHAT” is hard to answer unless you know the “WHY”. In other words, you should measure things relating to board engagement and performance if you want to improve those things.” 

In this post, Erik offers a case example of one national non-profit’s “organizational scorecard full of key performance indicators (KPIs)...The big idea here is that collecting this type of data, sharing this type of data, and integrating this type of data into systems like employee performance appraisal and board evaluation will drive change because it creates urgency, accountability and the assessment information necessary upon which organizational plans can be built.”

Outcome Measurement Madness

In a guest post on Donor Dreams Blog, Rose Reinert notes that when she was Executive Director of an organization, “we used to measure anything that moved. We were swimming in pre- and post-tests.”  

But now that “the tables have turned” and Rose is a board member herself, she has realized how overwhelming the pages of statistics can be (“oh the irony”). Now Rose suggests that while “data is critical … you can measure a lot and still have no clue.” So she suggests organizations “take a step back”, to get off of the “hamster wheel” of “outcome Measurement madness” and “reframe, or create a strategy to ensure that we are measuring what matters is critical.

3 Kinds of Data That Actually Matter to Nonprofits

Marc Koenig (nonprofithub) suggests: “The biggest rule of data: measurement only matters if it changes the way you act.” In the post, Marc outlines “the three best ways for nonprofits to use data and how to collect data that actually matters” including:

    1. Mission Impact Data: Once we gather data on mission impact, we can start applying it to do more work that matters, and less work that doesn’t.
    2. Failure Data: Once we’ve failed strategically, we will be bounds closer to a successful approach.
    3. Stories: And once we have learned more about the stories of the people we serve, we’ll be better prepared to serve them (and help them tell their stories) in the future.

Collecting Data through Mobile for Cause Marketing

Cassie Bair, a guest blogger for the MBlog, suggests:

“People, who need people, are the luckiest people in the world,” sang Barbara Streisand. She almost got it right: People who need people…need data.

Cause marketing needs people. And getting people involved as donors or volunteers in your cause requires data. Having the right data means taking the guesswork out of your communication.

…Getting data isn’t the end in and of itself. The point is to find out, save and use information about people so you can build a relationship with them around your cause.”

Navigating Your Nonprofit to Success Using Dashboards

Julia McDowell (agency voice) tells us:

You can’t be in charge of marketing campaigns these days without being a data geek.  But, the amount of data itself can be overwhelming and it can be extremely challenging to present the data in a way that makes an impact. So, what if you could present your marketing data to your Board, CEO, CMO or Supervisor in a simple, visual way and use the bird’s eye view to make quick adjustments to your tactics to gain better results?

Julia suggests that “Dashboards are your answer” to help “boil down your data …to help you communicate the latest statistics and results on your marketing campaigns in real time.”  The post outlines 5 questions to ask when creating your own dashboard”. 

Breaking Down Your Data: How to Set Your Own Benchmarks

Kristina Leroux (Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog) asks: "Do you track any data regarding your email open rates? What about your click-through or response rates?"

Kristina outlines the tips she learned in Joanna Miles’ session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference which offered advice on “how to break down data into bit-sized chunks and find simple, effective ways to analyze the most valuable metrics”. One valuable lesson she shares from the session is on “creating your own benchmarks so you know how you are doing by your own standards and can better understand why you are above or below the industry average when these reports come out.” And Kristina offers an example of how to arrive at your “benchmark open rate” for email.

Measuring impact like the Gates – redux

Gayle Gifford (The Butterfly Effect) asks: “Do the words evaluation measurement strike fear into the heart of your staff and board members?”

Gayle recommends that folks “take a look at  A Guide to Actionable Measurement, released in 2010 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” for  ideas on how to approach the idea of evaluation and measurement in your organization. Gayle outlines the “three frameworks to guide [your] approach to measurement:"

  1. Measurement should inform specific decisions and/or actions.
  2. We do not measure everything, but we do strive to measure what matters most.
  3. The data we gather help us learn and adapt our initiatives and strategies.

Talking Data – Collection, Reporting and ...the Closet

Michele Puzzanchera (Nonprofit Resource Memo blog) suggests: “reporting outcomes is a standard requirement for most funders of late, but many small nonprofits struggle to get the “evidence” that their funders, or donors, or board want to “prove” program effectiveness.” In her post, Michele interviews Maria Townsend, her colleague and friend who “has guided many nonprofit programs through the data collection and reporting process”.

Maria offers tips and advice, including taking “a data inventory. Think of it as if you are cleaning out your closets… Look at what is already hanging in the closet in terms of currently collected data.  How can we coordinate what we currently have to meet the new reporting requirements?  Do we have a mainstay survey that can be the foundation,  little black dress ... that you can dress up or pare down based on the occasion. Craft and insert questions to gather additional outcome data or remove items that you don’t need. If you want to take the dress... to the next level you add something substantial.”

Breaking News About Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Strategy: It Doesn’t Measure Up

Claire Axelrad (Clairification) notes:

We’ve got some data on how nonprofits are behaving digitally.  They’re putting up Facebook pages and starting Twitter accounts. Whoop-de-do.

What we do not have is a fully fleshed out narrative that tells us why nonprofits are behaving this way, who they’re targeting with their social conversations or what they’re getting out of it.

…It’s more interesting to ponder whether your organization knows how to measure if you’re reaching your intended outcomes through social channels. In other words, what are you trying to get out of the endeavor? 

What Your Nonprofit's Twitter Usage May Reveal About Its Fundraising

Brian Mittendorf (Counting on Charity) wonders: When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, does the old adage that silence is golden ring true?”

Brian outlines a “mini-experiment” that “makes use of Twitter and fundraising data to point out that talkative charities find fundraising more difficult.” Brian concludes that: “as with any data exercise, it is important to stress that the statistics demonstrate correlation, not causation.  That is, there is no indication that tweeting will itself reduce fundraising efforts.  However, it does indicate that organizations who actively tweet are also organizations that tend to struggle with fundraising efficiently.  Thus, Twitter usage may portend difficulties in fundraising, even if it is not a cause of it.”

The carnival’s in town again in July!

That's it for this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival round-up, but the fun continues in July! Craig Linton will be your host next month looking at regular giving. Check out his call for submissions over at the Fundraising Detective blog.

If you want to become aFriend of the Carnival and receive email updates twice a month with reminders about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival - you can sign up here.

 Image source: Circus poster... courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 9:05 AM

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