The rise of outcome oriented grantmaking in the U.S., paired with the common ‘ proposal → grant → report’ pathway, left us with the unintentional consequence of reinforcing the faulty belief that running a program and measuring the outcomes of a program are two different things.
This separation occurs naturally when you think about the idea that you collect different data to report to different funders during different times in the cycle of your program. The more funders you have for any given program, the more data you collect to report to those funders. Because like you, nonprofits likely don’t have time to collect all the data. In my experience, they usually end up guesstimating just to meet deadlines.
Good data collection starts with a good understanding of what your program does on the ground level. Connecting the day-to-day activities of running your program with the long-term outcomes you are trying to achieve will illuminate a pathway that will guide you the questions you should be asking and answering about your programming regularly in order to deliver better services to your clients and differentiate your program to your funders.
Setting intentions and gaining clarity with your team around why you are collecting data, what you will do with it, and how it will be helpful to the day-to-day will create space for your team to drive how to answer key questions through data collection. By embedding the ability to evaluate your program into the delivery of your program, you will build a culture of continuous learning, reflection, and improvement.
Embedding data collection into the delivery of your program will boost your team’s capacity capacity and provide valuable insight on improvements within your program and your organization.
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