‘Show Me The Data’: How to Maximise Data in Your Next Funding Application
6 March 2018 at 7:49 am
In our highly competitive funding environment, data is the new commodity, writes Edmond Low, director and principal consultant of DQUBE Solutions.
The ability to track the economic and social impact of services is essential in seeking public funding as governments take a priority investment approach to welfare. Impact reporting becomes yet more significant when you consider that Australia’s charity sector is highly saturated: there are about 10 new charities established every business day.
Despite the need to have better data for impact reporting, a recent article in The Conversation revealed that about 90 per cent of not-for-profit organisations lack the funds and resources to collect, analyse and interpret data.
However, data collection does not necessarily have to be resource-intensive or cost prohibitive. You are most likely using some common methods already, so here are tips on how you can maximise your data collection and reporting opportunities.
- Already doing surveys? Expand your scope and extend your reach
Attitudinal data, or information about how the community and clients view your organisation, your mission, and their perception of how effective your organisation has been, is an important dataset that contributes to your understanding of clients’ experiences, what they want and the actions they prefer to take.
You can expand your scope for capturing attitudinal data through survey research, campaign/programme evaluation and nationally representative opinion polling – which is not just useful for funding applications, but media attention and community awareness as well.
If you are doing client surveys or measuring outcomes, you are already engaging in collection of attitudinal and impact data. The key to drive audience response is simplicity and relevancy. For instance, invites to survey participation can be done through email, as an overlay on a web page, or as a link sent through SMS, thereby enabling surveys to be deployed at point of contact. These options make them timely, well-targeted and enhances the survey experience. Surveys should use language that is easy to understand, and be kept short and sharp. Similarly, look to automate the follow-up of non-responses to reduce administrative burden within the organisation. Such improvements lead to greater completion rates, and hence improved efficacy and cost-efficiency.
By cross-referencing different attitudinal and impact datasets, you can validate your findings, evaluate service delivery and measure your organisation’s success.
- Use social media analytics to uncover valuable insights
Social media can be abundant in both qualitative and quantitative data – if you are mining it.
Seen as “the largest, richest and most dynamic evidence base of human behaviour, bringing new opportunities to understand individuals, groups and society”, scientists and professionals are finding ways to tap into this wealth of data, out of which research tools such as news analytics and opinion mining, have emerged. This should be of particular importance to Australia where about 60 per cent of the country’s population are active on Facebook, making them amongst the most prolific social media users in the world. Data on social media usage has implications for domains such as public perception, client engagement and campaign evaluation, which would in turn reveal the link between services/campaigns and the economic, social and other benefits they reap.
Data on what people actually do, how they engage with your organisation’s website and campaigns, how often they open the organisation’s emails or attend an event, provide insights known as behavioural data, which is a key pillar for impact reporting. Collect data from your organisation’s blogs, social media accounts, as well as news services, and all your external communications collateral to monitor links that people tend to click. Explore click-through rates on your organisation’s websites and social media accounts. From there, you can put together a richer understanding of audiences, which allows you to report to funders on how your audiences interact with your organisation’s work.
Maximise this information to create a cohesive client journey across mobile, web and other platforms to keep users active and engaged, and build positive interactions at every touchpoint.
- Leverage data advocates, and build a culture of data literacy
All not-for-profit organisations that collect data on their services or campaigns are engaging in some form of monitoring and evaluation. Yet data is often not well-understood and prone to misinterpretation and misrepresentation. It is also confronted by inertia and resistance in an age of data explosion where there is information fatigue, as well as in a culture where data is viewed as reductionist in nature.
Through the right use of data, organisations can: review the impact of the service/campaign against their goals, and improve service delivery; create a learning culture; build trust and credibility with beneficiaries, funders, policy makers and supporters; and build an impressive case for more funding.
Do this by developing and supporting data advocates within the organisation so you can maximise outcomes by capturing data aligned with external reporting requirements and synthesising all data to provide relevant information to funding agencies.
The key to building a culture of data literacy in your organisation is to:
- develop a holistic organisation-wide data collection strategy;
- support staff in overcoming misconceptions or even fears;
- identify every opportunity to collect data about the organisation’s internal and external activities; and
- introduce best practices for data collection and reporting systems.
There is never a better time to be data-savvy about your organisation’s activities. Yielding meaningful data – over a period of time – can build a comprehensive view of your clients and community perception. It will also support you in reporting on how they engage with your services, campaigns and organisation. There is strength in numbers, and with time series for all the data you collect, your organisation’s impact on the community is going to be crystal clear.
If you are keen to learn more about using data to improve funding applications, or how I can help with your organisation’s data collection and reporting, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on LinkedIn.
About the author: Edmond Low is director and principal consultant at DQUBE Solutions. He has significant expertise in research data collection, dashboard reporting and business IT consulting. He works collaboratively with organisations to identify, analyse and develop solutions that are fit-for-purpose, and strives to capture data effectively, extract meaning and make a difference.