Unlocking the Key Questions to Ask Your Data: The Insights Will Follow

By Annie Rhodes

Your organization has spent years collecting, inputting and storing data, ensuring you have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed in terms of following best practices and requirements of data tracking and management. However, have you ever looked across your organization at the breadth and depth of the data you have, only to realize you’re not sure how to use all of this information? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. UpMetrics has been collaborating with many organizations like yours who are at a similar stage in their data journey.  In order to get your data to work for you, to help guide your program, operations and overall strategy, there are a few key questions that you need to ask. In return you’ll have data with purpose that you can learn from, take action on and communicate out to your board, funders, or other partners. Here are a few questions to to guide you as you advance in your data maturity and start to get your data to work for you:

 

  • Are our programs creating the change that we intended?  If so, what change did we help support?  If not, what do we need to adjust to work towards that change? Or how do we adjust our goals to recognize the need for change? Thrive Chicago* shares how looking at data across organizations helped to identify shared challenges that they helped to collectively solve so those organizations could shift towards greater impact. 

  • Are we serving the communities and the constituents that we set out to serve?  Are we working with the most marginalized, disenfranchised, most in need?  What is the community's perspective on how we are doing? What do the members of the community really need?  Are we delivering on that real need?  If not, can we? Lowell Weiss in the Washington Monthly's How Funders Can Get Better at Getting Better reminds us that we need to keep a continual feedback loop with our community in an effort of continuous improvement. 

  • How are we doing against the Goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) we’ve set for ourselves? Are we on track or offtrack? If you don’t have formalized Goals and KPI’s, this is the year to start.  They provide a concrete way to measure your progress, just start small and keep them SMART

  • Do our stakeholders, staff, leadership, board, community, donors, have access to the insight they need?  How are we sharing data throughout our organization? Do we have data walls or data opportunities? Do we overshare on some data and undershare on others? What do our stakeholders need to know?  In this Nonprofit Pro post Gleb Tsipursky explores 8 Powerful Questions Nonprofit Leaders Need to Ask Before Engaging Stakeholders.
  • What data don’t we have? Recognizing that the data you have isn’t everything you need, you now need to ask, what data are we missing? Have we been collecting only quantitative data? Where are the stories that bring that data to life? In this NPQ Grassroots Fundraising Journal article they explored why telling your story with data is imperative today. 

 

If these questions are new, or even looking at your data collectively is new, don’t fret, most organizations are in the place on their data journey.  What these questions are is a starting point for you to build on.  Once you’ve started to answer the questions above and/or outlined the right questions for you, you’ll need to make sure you identify who will manage your data going forward and how. With a baseline set and resources available to help you to utilize your data to inform decisions, you’ll be set up to reflect and improve as you grow your impact.



 

*Learn more about how Thrive Chicago worked through some of these questions and more in our upcoming webinar March 16th. Register now!

 

Looking for more guidance on how you can ensure your organization is using its data effectively? Check out these 7 ways to transition from having data to being data-driven. 


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