Data can be useful in nearly every step of creating and running a successful nonprofit. When thinking about the key entry points for data, we think of it as a nonprofit data life cycle. We can help with any of these entry points. A description of each of these points is below, but these efforts may also be referred to more generally as program evaluation. These entry points are not mutually exclusive and not necessarily linear, meaning that we can help customize our services to meet your organization's current needs. Each organization's needs are different and as such, the best way to determine how we may be able to help you is to contact us for a free new project consultation.
Additionally, we offer trainings and workshops for organizations and professional groups to increase their data capacity or to learn about a key nonprofit data topic. Contact us for information and availability.
Understanding Client/Participant Needs
Sometimes organizations have a very clear idea of who they will serve and what the needs are of that community. Sometimes additional clarification or reassurance is needed. Sometimes organizations know who they want to serve, but they aren't sure where that population resides. We can help gather community data from various sources to better inform your organization on the needs of the underlying community, additional needs of your existing clients, or what your clients may say would serve them better.
Theory of Change Development
The first step is to consider what change or changes you expect to see from your program. Researchers call this a theory of change. You can do this at the program level or at an organizational level. A theory of change will help you map out how you expect each aspect of a program to contribute to incremental change and get you to the outcomes and impacts that you envision. This is a useful precursor to using data; it should be informed by your clients'/participants' needs and existing research on how change occurs. You can read more about what a theory of change is here or contact us for help creating one for your organization.
Logic Model Development
After you've mapped out how you expect change to happen, the next step is to determine what your program will do to create those changes. One way to do this is through a logic model. A logic model will allow you to map out what activities occur in your program, how you can measure that they're being done, and what outcomes you expect to see as a result of those activities. Logic models are useful for pointing out when activities and outcomes may not line up as well as making it clearer what kind of outputs or outcomes your program should collect data on. Some funders require programs to submit a logic model, but even without a funder requirement, we believe they are a useful tool in moving your organization toward more data driven decisions.
Once a program has a solid theory of change and logic model, the next step is to determine how you can measure the changes in your clients/participants. We use a utilization and developmental focus, meaning that the goal is to set up processes that can be feasibly implemented by the organization. We believe that determining the most comprehensive measure for an outcome and determining the most reliable way to collect that information is useless if it is so burdensome that the organization can't sustain the effort. We can help review existing research to determine the best way to define and measure the key constructs of interest for your program.
Analyzing Your Data
Now that you have solid data, what do you do with it? We can help by either analyzing your data for you and providing a report back, developing tools to help you analyze and see your results on an ongoing basis, or teaching you some data analysis methods so your organization can analyze your data internally. Data aren't useful when they just sit in a spreadsheet or database, so let us help you turn data into results!
Using Data for Programmatic Decision Making
The end goal is typically to use your data to find results and then use those results to improve programming. However, this is often the most difficult step! How do we know what changes to make? How will we know if the changes are having the effects we want? We can help you strategize with your stakeholders to determine how to move from having data to making data driven decisions.
Using Data to Tell Your Story
We know that organizations need support in order to survive. Data can be a key component in telling your organization's story. We can help you strategize how to utilize data (both qualitative and quantitative) to appeal to different audiences.
Equity in Data
Equity is a value that we hold strongly. We believe that organizations should not just strive to serve all people equally, but to reach greater equity in their outcomes. We can help you determine if your organization is impacting people equitably, what equity gaps there may be in the population you serve, and how you can make programmatic or organizational changes to increase equity.
Data Best Practices
While consenting, collecting, storing, and sharing data may seem simple at face value, they create some of the greatest data risks for organizations. They also are the details that can seem to hold up the entire process if they aren't handled correctly. We can provide insights and processes to ensure that you have obtained appropriate informed consent for collecting (and using or sharing, where needed) participant data, help you develop best practices for collecting and storing data in secure and manageable ways, and provide guidance on how to share data in ways that are useful but still protect your organization and client/participants' rights.
Power Dynamics in Determining Impact
Being intentional about power dynamics is another value that is core to us. We borrow from literature on Human Centered Design, empowerment theory, and participatory research to employ tactics that pay particular attention to power dynamics in all steps of the research/evaluation process. We believe that people are the experts of their own lived experiences. That means that when utilizing data on clients/participants to inform a program, we believe that their "seat at the table" is not only essential, it is likely the most important seat. We believe that it is essential to check your assumptions about who you serve in order to achieve the greatest and most long lasting impact. These beliefs and values are infused into every component of our work. Additionally, we can help your organization strategize how to better balance power dynamics and ensure authentic stakeholder voice in all aspects of your organization's functioning and decision making.
Trainings and Workshops
Dr. Jodi Petersen is a skilled researcher and presenter and has led numerous trainings on data in the nonprofit sector. She can provide training for your organization or professional association on all aspects of data as described above as well as current hot topics in data and evaluation. Additionally she is happy to customize a training or presentation for your particular audience's interests or goals.