Creating a Data Culture

This article offers clear steps for nonprofits to develop a data culture to maximize social impact.

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In a recent survey by the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), 75 percent of nonprofits collect data, only 6 percent feel they are using it effectively. This means that the vast majority of nonprofits have failed to develop a data culture—that is, a deep, organization-wide comfort level with using metrics to maximize social impact. Although many organizations don’t feel like their organizations are making good use of their data, creating a data culture is critical to their success. Actively and consistently using data to inform decisions allows nonprofits to track whether their programs are resulting in the outcomes they intend. 

Creating a culture that is data-driven is essential for nonprofits to make critical decisions based upon the data that they collect. It is also key to measuring performance and demonstrating impact to current and prospective funders. This article highlights four important ways that nonprofits can build their data culture. Importantly, these recommendaitons are non-technical and do not require data science expertise to implement.

These priorities include distinguishing between outcomes and outputs, identifying creative metrics for impact evaluation, measuring data that is mission-aligned, and rigorously evaluating the extent to which impact data can be attributed to programming. The article provides real-world examples of nonprofits that have successfully incorporated one of these four priorities to build their data cultures.

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