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In Search of Better Data about Nonprofits’ Programs


This blog is part of our conversation on big data, which includes our professional journal GMNsight: Advancing Grantmaking

From the Markets for Good blog:

What are we really asking for when we require nonprofits to produce data on performance, effectiveness and impact? While the surface logic is clear – we need to know this information – the full context and set of assumptions surrounding the request bears closer examination. Laura Quinn, founder of Idealware, breaks it down to reveal the barriers to generating good data and, further, calls out a few ways that the sector can and should support any request for more and better data.

Quinn says the biggest headaches for data development are likely to be:

  • Data Quality
  • Providing Data to Funders
  • Meeting Changing Data Requirements
  • Defining How Best to Measure for Improvement
  • Trying to Measure Impact
  • Fending off Bad Research
  • Proving Your Value

So should we expect community nonprofits to become bastions of data? Quinn says:

Funders need to understand what is and isn’t feasible, and to redirect the focus of their desire for community impact evaluations from small nonprofits to the university and research world so the nonprofits they support can be unencumbered to work toward a better world.

We all need to understand that if we as a sector lean on nonprofits to provide data they simply don’t have the infrastructure to provide, what we’ll get is not better data—in fact, we may data that’s worse. Organizations pushed to provide impact data to get funding will provide something, but it’s not likely to be the high quality data or strategic metrics that would actually help them improve, or that would help the sector learn anything about the effectiveness of the services they provide.


Read the full blog post »


Nikki Powell

Nikki Powell is PEAK Grantmaking's communications and practices director. You can find her on Twitter @nikkiwpowell.