Data in Focus
The nonprofit world is talking a lot about data—which is mostly a good thing. But as several of this month’s stories show, more data isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s important to put data in context—to think through what’s realistic, avoid prejudice, and display it honestly.
Most of us don't need more data. We need more focus. And fundamentally, as a sector we’re not going to get very far with data unless we fund the ability to strategically plan, collect, and analyze that data.
If you want to get started using data to enhance your mission, I would encourage you to take Andrew Means’ advice and “start where you are.” Ask yourself what you need to know for your organization to be successful and figure out a handful of metrics that can collect that information.
But don’t feel you have to collect everything you need to know all by yourself. Larger organizations that are working toward similar goals often publish and analyze their data. By leveraging their work, you can build a foundation of knowledge that makes zeroing in on a handful of metrics more straightforward and realistic.
From data analysis to funding technology to the complexities of the digital divide, here are the stories that stood out to us this month. Enjoy.
Director of Partnerships and Knowledge
Best of the Web
To kick off its Community Insight series, Markets for Good talks to Andrew Means about the projects he’s working on, the quickly changing research and analytics landscape, and the biggest opportunities for data in the nonprofit sector.
Many large nonprofits have lead the push for "data-based decision-making" in the past few years, and we often think of this approach as smarter and less-biased than human decisions—after all, numbers don't lie. But this post from the Sunlight Foundation explores the ways we've built our own prejudices and biases into the data models we analyze and uses this finding to make a case for greater transparency in collecting data.
What I Learned From Grantmakers About Funding Technology (Idealware)
Here are a few grantmaker insights from a recent Idealware training session.
How Can We Help Our Grantees Strengthen Their Capacity for Evaluation? (GEO)
If there's a nonprofit equivalent of an earworm, program evaluation is it. In the past few years, more and more nonprofits have been collecting and scrutinizing data about their programs, and for the most part, foundations and other major funders are the ones leading the charge. This whitepaper from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) highlights what it found when it interviewed leading foundations about how they help nonprofits develop program evaluation systems.
There were a number of exciting case studies this month on how nonprofits can use technology to help them deliver programs or services in new ways. Nonprofit Quarterlyhas an interesting roundup on nonprofit uses of text messaging
. Markets for Goodtalks about GlobalGiving’s use of gamification
, incentives, and behavioral economics to encourage organizations to listen to the people they serve, to act on what they hear by testing new ideas, and to learn faster and more efficiently.
Using Open Data, a Scientist Is Finding New York City’s Best Stories (Observer)
Buried in New York City’s open data are fascinating stories about how people live and work in America’s largest city. Computer scientist and blogger Ben Wellington combs through that data to find oddities such as the most expensive fire hydrant as well as serious patterns in police behavior and racial bias.
Do you or members of your team work remotely? Check out these handy guides to help you stay in touch, work as a team, and keep focused.
Most of us read, click, or swipe our way across the Web at lightning speed. Our ability to take that for granted is made possible, in part, by user experience (UX) designers. The public radio show Note to Self takes a closer look at how those designers decide to put every element of a website or app in just the right place.
If you don’t know about Frankology, you’re missing out on a valuable resource. The site is a treasure trove of peer-reviewed research across multiple disciplines that was selected to provide nonprofits with information that could help them approach complex problems in new ways.
Thinking Past the Digital Divide (Civicist)
When most people talk about the digital divide, they're talking about bringing broadband access to low-income or rural individuals. But this post from Civicist takes a look at how many seemingly "unconnected" people use smartphones and public Wi-Fi to stay connected, suggesting that those working to improve online access for low-income Americans may be overlooking some big opportunities.
Staying Ahead of the Competition with Social Listening (Epolitics)
If you’re involved in a contentious political or advocacy campaign, social listening can help you strengthen your messages, get ahead of your critics, and expand your knowledge. This article helps you get started developing a social listening strategy.
Recommendations & Resources from the Digital Adoption Report (NTEN)
NTEN’s Digital Adoption Report now comes with additional resources to help you dig deeper into the report’s findings and apply what you learn to your own organization.