Every time a report is due, you rifle through a stack of program files and click around an endless sea of folders as you try and answer the most basic questions about how many people you served and what impact your programs had. You sigh as you fill in the missing numbers with your best guesstimate and fill out the rest of the section with lengthy descriptions of what your program does hoping it’s good enough to stand out.
You hit send, let the team know the grant application has been submitted, and spend the next few months wondering if the funding will come through.
It sounds like you might be caught in the vicious cycle of collecting data to give away to your funders, and scrambling to get that data together every time you have a grant deadline. The truth is – when you do get everything together to submit that grant application for funding or report to your donors – you don’t stand out from anyone else because it’s hard to distinguish your program. Secretly, you might already know that you don’t have the actual tools you need to understand, measure, or communicate the value of your program in a way that resonates.
Good data collection can be a gold mine of information that allows you to do what you do better. The wrong data won’t do you much good here. Your ability to make your data work for you actually starts long before it’s easily accessible and available to you in real-time.
Data is everywhere, and nearly everything is data. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information available to you, let alone figure out how to sort through it. The secret to good data collection is that it starts before you start collecting data. First, you need to get clear on what your organization is trying to achieve. Then, you figure out what you’d need to measure in order to understand how well your program is meeting those goals.
Focus on collecting the important information. Not ALL the information.
When you focus and refine what you’re measuring, you reduce the overall volume of data you’re left to manage. Even better, you’re left with useful data that can inform your day-to-day practices and decisions, and build a culture of continuous learning within your organization.
Every month that goes by where you are collecting data to serve your program’s funders first and your clients second (if at all), and every day that goes by where you are separating the evaluation of your programming from the day-to-day of running your program, the less sustainable your organization is becoming.
What if in just 8 weeks, you could break this cycle? You could measure what you needed to tell the STORY about your program that actually matters, use the data you collect to improve the services you are providing, and not have to worry about standing out to your funders?
Visit standoutnow.org for exclusive access to our free webinar where you will learn how your nonprofit can use program evaluation to improve your value, services, funding, and outcomes – all in just 8 weeks.
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