Does your organisation have methods in place to capture data on your programs? Great!
What about processes to analyse and use that data?
One of the things we often hear is that organisations have data from surveys, program delivery staff, beneficiary feedback, or even client records; but that it’s sitting in a folder somewhere in a deep dark corner, sad and alone and not providing useful insights to anyone.
It seems that the step many organisations miss, is the essential one that happens between collecting the data and sharing the outcomes. Analysis of your organisation’s data is absolutely vital to understand what’s working, what’s not and to inform efficient resource allocation. Data analysis is the process of bringing together the evidence that you have collected and making sense of it in order to understand how much change has happened, for whom, and why.
Nonprofits are stretched in terms of resources – so knowing how, and why, and in what circumstances our programs are maximally effective is a budget saver as well as quite literally, a life-saver for beneficiaries.
When you’ve collected a lot of information it can feel overwhelming and difficult to know where to begin to make sense of it all. My number one piece of advice is not to wait on analysis! Schedule time as soon as you have all your data collected together. Sit down for a large chunk of time, and review what you have.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to pull out reportable insights straight away – ask questions in order to get an objective picture, look at the story your data is telling you collectively. Trends will emerge. Scribble some notes on what it feels like the data is telling you, and then go back and look at the data again to see if your notes are backed up by evidence in the data. Some of your insights might leave you with more questions – and that’s great! These questions will help you guide data collection next time, or maybe you’ll decide you can answer them through a follow up interview or survey.
If you don’t have someone within your organisation who is skilled in pulling out evaluative insights from your program data, talk to us. We are happy to help with every stage of evaluation, from design of monitoring and evaluation frameworks, right through to data analysis and reporting.