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Questions for Improving Clarity of Cause and Quality of Data

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There are more than 1.5 million active non-profits in America.[1] That means millions of people all over the nation are engaged in the hard work of doing good. While this is an incredible fact that we should all spend time to appreciate, there is still a lot of work to be done in our communities. There is no shortage of issues to be addressed and it is likely that some of our readers are thinking of innovative ways of addressing those issues.

Before we start our new program or organization there a few questions we should seriously explore. Nailing down some answers to these questions will not only help us to increase our sense of clarity; it will help us to gather the type of data that we need to illustrate the effectiveness of our activities.

1)     What specific activities will we undertake in our efforts to make impact? What can we easily record every time we engage in said activity? And who in the organization will be responsible for recording this?

Sometimes the idea of collecting data can feel daunting, time consuming, and inconvenient. However, modern technology allows us to record a plethora of data points without much effort. Once we are clear on the type of activity we are recording and who will be in charge of recording it, it is likely that we can find an application that can help us to record it.

The chosen app might be as sophisticated as DOMO or it may be as simple as Microsoft Excel. The key is to be clear about exactly what we are trying to record (and write the definition down so that everyone will know) and who exactly will be in charge of recording it every time.

2)     If we have made an impact, how will we know it? What will we be able to see?

Not all impact is short term and visible but if we are impacting the world, there should always be something observable. We should engage in the business of observing it. Even if it is a change in a person’s perspective, we might consider asking them about the perspective we are trying to change before and after our program. Or we may also consider whether it is possible for us to observe manifestations of that perspective change.

 Taking the time to ask these two sets of questions and implementing data plans based on their answers will increase the flexibility and long term sustainability of our program. We can only be nimble and responsive if we understand what is going on and data clarity can help us with that!

[1] http://nccs.urban.org/data-statistics/quick-facts-about-nonprofits