The Nonprofit Technology Conference (#NTC17) met in March in Washington, DC, the headquarters of all nonprofits. The conference was vast with inspiring keynotes and information-filled panels. The following is only a sampling of what was available and reveals my passions and interests: Data, Diversity and Communication. If you want to try to get a sense of the greater paths for the conference, check their social feeds @ntenorg and #ntc17. A list of the plenaries and panels attended is at the bottom of this post. Today we focus on data: collection, interpretation and dissemination.
Data is power and everything can be data; therefore, data is often overwhelming. Thus, it is crucial for organizations to take time to prioritize the data they collect. With all possible data streams coming into an organization, how can a director of marketing, programming or IT cull to the critical mass? A place to start is to identify the data aligned with your organization's strategic plan's goals. How will the organization know if it has accomplished its goals? You can also take time at the beginning of each planning cycle (organizational or departmental) to evaluate your intended outcomes and goals then identify the necessary data. This is easiest, of course, if your programs are driven by logic models, but if not just ask yourself why you are doing the program. What will it accomplish and how will you know? Data in an institution breaks down into 3 stages: knowing what data to collect, how to interpret it, and with whom to share it.
Critical to understanding how to collect data is understanding what you want to do with it afterward? If the organization knows X, what will the organization do differently? Additionally, how can you visualize your data to best understand and interpret it? Two excellent examples are the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Map. Here they use standard data and geographical visualization to share. They share it with the intent to bring light to the subject and help those for equity to understand the geographic and typographic levels of hate across the USA. Splcenter.org/hate-map
A second example reveals how to collect and display data in a visceral, physical form. Johns Hopkins University wanted to understand the level of food waste on campus and share it with the students to help them know the result of taking too much and throwing away food. The data was food. Students were asked to put their leftover food into tubs they could see. The change was to get rid of trays so students were aware of the quantity of their food choices. This endeavor was part of JHU's "Know Your Foodprint" initiative.
Once the data is interpreted, organizations need to share results broadly to all relevant stakeholders. In the food waste example, the containers of leftover food were left in the dining hall for the students to see. In the example of the Hate Map, the Southern Poverty Law's web site and communication pathways share the data with the world.
Transparency is the driving theme in data collection, interpretation and sharing. All relevant stakeholders should be shown the results, including the subjects of the data collection. If an organization asks for feedback on a program, the feedback should be shared back. If executive staff asks for information from the staff, the results should be shared. For example, one institution created an online "post-mortem" to the institution's activities. In a Google form they asked "what have you learned from doing X?" and "Who in the organization should know about it?". The results are shared, live, with the entire organization on a google drive document.
As demonstrated above, high-forms of technology are not needed for data informed decision making. The key is:
- Plan for sustainability
- Accountability to mission
And, transparency. Remember to complete the feedback loop: Gather data, interpret data, articulate resulting action plan, implement, share change, back to gathering data.
- Part II: Storytelling: How It Matters
- Part III: New Tools and Methods for Effective Communication
- Opening Session with Amy Sample Ward, Nonprofit Technology Network and James Rooney, Microsoft Corporation plus 7 Ignite presentations "My Fail Story"
- Data Visualization: Effective Communication with Maps, Charts and Graphs with Alberto Cairo @albertocairo
- Circulating Information: Using Data to Inform Program Content (and Communications) with Janice Chan, Johns Hopkins Institutions, Marci Soifer, Foundation for Jewish Camp
- How Nonprofits Can Be Part of the Podcasting Renaissance with Will Coley, Opportunity Agenda/Aquifer Media, Juanita Monsalve, Center for Community Change, Lauren Ober, WAMU 88.5.
- Stories Matter: Equity in Storytelling for the Digital Age with Michael Hoffman See3Communications, Rebecca Kling, National Center for Transgender Equity, Nicole Long, See3 Communications, and Roshani Kothari
- Breaking Down Silos: Integrating Marketing and Fundraising Departments with Sarah Durham, Big Duck, Kivi Leroux Miller, Nonprofit Marketing Guide, Anysa Holder, Easterseals New Jersey, Hannah Kim, Harlem RBI, Cindy Olnick, Los Angeles Conservancy
- Secret Share Time: Throw Out your Email Fundraising Best Practices with Nick Barbieri, Charity Dynamics, Inc., Trista Murphy, Save the Children, Josh Vincent, Charity Dynamics, Inc.