Friday, April 19, 2013

9 Ways To Measure Nonprofit Data

We live in a society where it's easy to be overwhelmed by data. It seems as if there are statistics about virtually everything, making it hard to figure out which numbers are actually important. Nonprofits are among the groups that are gathering more data  than ever, but not all of them are using the information they gather, or are not using it as well as they can.

Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine wrote in their book, "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit," that it is more important to evaluate impact than to gather and store numbers. They offered nine suggestions on how organizations can get the most out of the statistics they gather:
  • “Likes” on Facebook is not a victory. Social change is a victory. Proper measurement keeps organizations focused on results rather than the tools they use.
  • Measurement helps nonprofits understand and improve their social networks. It helps them listen to and engage with constituents.
  • Measurement means data for decisions, not for data’s sake. It isn’t numbers to dump on the board’s desk.
  • Measurement makes an organization plan for success. Measurement leads to smarter investments and smarter use of those investments.
  • Good measurement is good governance. Credible evaluation reports and demonstrations of impact are crucial.
  • Data without insight is just trivia.
  • Measuring failure is part of the path to success. If an experiment bombs or a great idea isn’t really so great, learn from it, and learn why it happened.
  • Incremental success is no failure. Victories often come in baby steps.
  • Measurement is valuable at every level of functioning.

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