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How to Make a Data Strategy


How to Make a Data Strategy

For nonprofits, social impact is often the sole mission of an organization. With the rise of data collection options, reliable data is easier to access and more relevant than ever to demonstrate their impact. 

Creating a data strategy plan can seem like a daunting task for small-to-medium-sized nonprofit organizations, some of which may lack upscale budgets and employees with data science backgrounds. 

But, according to a 2016 report, using precise, reliable data can unlock the hidden values within nonprofit organizations and help solve the numerous problems that can challenge growth for such entities.

Producing a data strategy is not hard to do and does not require any extensive technical experience. However, it would be best if you took the time to reflect and review current practices to examine current goals.

In regards to the technical side of data strategy, this is where Felix, our data collection and analytics software, comes in to help take the load off.

Here’s a preliminary exercise of questions every nonprofit should consider in the beginning stages of planning and producing a sound data strategy plan.

What Questions Should You Be Asking? 

First, it is essential to ask yourself these questions when taking the initial steps of drafting or ideating a data strategy plan:

  1. What do I need to know, or what problem do I need to solve?
  2. What data do I need to answer my questions?
  3. How will we collect that data?
  4. What’s the plan of action — what team members need to get involved?
  5. How will I report and present insights?
  6. What does success look like for this project?
  7. What are my long term goals for data research?

These questions are essential for forming a well-thought-out data strategy. They can be asked in the beginning and throughout the data analysis to make sure no iterations are needed. 

For example, during our U.S.-based rent assistance project, success equaled keeping more than 350 families in their homes for the next 90 days. The goal of our data collection with Felix was to intake family information from local partners to understand the level of homelessness risk and to qualify these families into our program. 

That data was then anonymized and shared with donors to encourage them to continue support of The Neighborhood, fund those families, and support our partners’ goals. Our data strategy was clear, intentional, and easy to follow, so all team members knew their part in the project.  

Felix streamlined data collection across five different nonprofit partners in this project, located in Georgia and California. It also helped us efficiently visualize all 350+ families in one place for easy qualification and tracking. 

Ultimately, collecting the right data can enable more accuracy, efficiency, consistency, and transparency toward your organization’s real impact. 

A Data Strategy Framework 

By this phase in your planning, you may already be prepared to complete the framework, having answered the preliminary questions. 

  • Identify the problem. Define the project’s values, priorities, and challenges. Are the goals of this project quantifiable?
  • Assess your data strategy. Question what types of data will be collected, how they will be collected (surveys, for example), and how the data will be stored. It’s essential to think about how the questions asked help to address the problem and whether it gives any actionable information.
  • Scope of the project. This is where your quantifiable goals come into play. Review your data collection processes and implementation. What does success look like for this project as it relates to aid recipients’ impact and the organization’s goals? Having identifiable landmarks along the way will help you iterate as you go. 
  • Pilot the project. Testing the project by way of trial and error and adapting the plan along the way. This is a significant part of the data strategy plan. Eliminating inconsistencies or redundancies. Iterate if needed. 
  • Reflect. When finished with the first project, highlighting capability and capacity building goals and other use cases that can be applied and optimized.

Data analysis can be accessible to everyone and is a valuable resource for increasing social impact, especially for nonprofit organizations and other public service entities. 

Interested in letting Felix give you a hand with data collection and analysis? Request a demo.

Written by Minah Kwon