Conquering Data – Two Ways to Start Small

It can be overwhelming to think about data and program evaluation. When venturing into this territory it’s only natural to have questions. Where should we begin? What should we measure? How can we find meaning in our data? In the first blog of our five-part series, Conquering Data, we will help answer these questions and share additional tips on how to best navigate your new data journey.

Here’s the first one: it’s okay to start small.

All organizations struggle with the ability to gather and review data and determine what to do with it. Maybe there isn’t a team in place with the right time or expertise to perform data functions. Or sometimes, the proper tools or software are not accessible to utilize. In any number of circumstances, building a data strategy may feel challenging.

In these situations, we recommend taking two initial steps to get started:

Step 1: Identify Your Information Needs

Stop and think about what information you need as an organization to be successful. To get started, ask yourself some questions:

  • What information would be useful when describing our programs?
  • What questions do we want to answer for stakeholders that we have had difficulty answering in the past?
  • What are the key benefits we would like to demonstrate for our programs?

Step 2: Prioritize Your Data Collection

After compiling a list of data needs, you may wish to prioritize the top three. This allows you to take that first step without feeling the need to tackle it all at once.

The type of data you collect will likely depend on your program’s stage of development. If your program is new, you will want to start by collecting reliable information to help you describe program activities, such as the number of clients served. We call these process measures. If your program already has reliable information on program activities, you can shift your focus to capturing client outcomes. Outcome measures track the results you achieve by providing services.

Moving forward on data collection and evaluation can be extremely impactful, even with just a small first step. When a local Richmond nonprofit, UnBoundRVA, was not sure where to start, we partnered with them using our Evaluator Is In program to help better understand and measure their outcomes. With the Evaluator Is In, organizations have to opportunity to ask us one question a day, allowing them to “start small” and begin tackling data and program evaluation projects with confidence and ease.

For additional information on the Evaluator Is In program or to learn of other ways KAG can help with data and program evaluation, please contact us at trina@knowledgeadvisorygroup.com.