What do I do with all this data?

How to answer the right questions with your data

June 6. 2023

Maryfrances Porter


I had the true pleasure of going to the Grant Makers for Effective Organizations 2023 Learning Conference in Washington DC the other week. It was simply one of the very best conferences I’ve ever been to. Everything I went to was valuable. Highly recommend!


The Most Frequent Question

There were a lot of sessions on evaluation in philanthropy – what it means, why do it, how to be inclusive, how not to burden grantees. And the question I heard voiced most frequently was:

What do we do with all this data?


Your Value-driven Work

Everyone at the conference was talking about their organization’s values – particularly around trust-based and participatory grant making. It was AMAZING to hear such focus on investing in the things that matter most to communities, allowing them to define success, and not making grantees jump through hoops.

Since making a difference is at the heart of all the efforts of foundations and their grantees, there was also a lot of curiosity around how to know the work is actually benefiting people. The majority of the conversation wasn’t about “return on investment,” it was about equity and making sure people are valuing and benefitting from what they are receiving.

But how do you measure THAT?


How to be Value-driven and Data-informed

I think it must just sound way too simple to be true – but whether you are a philanthropist or a nonprofit – you’re collecting data to see if you are meeting your value-based goals. Here’s how it works.

Sample Value-based Goal: We (the nonprofit and/or the philanthropist) focus on ensuring historically disenfranchised people have access to business mentoring and networking.

All the data collected should be laser focused on learning these things about this goal:
(1) Are you reaching historically disenfranchised people (insert specific groups here)?
(2) Are people getting useful business mentoring?
(3) Are people getting valuable networking opportunities?

These are all very informative and very important questions!


Three Super Helpful Resources

For answering (1) above, you probably know how to count the people you serve (although sometimes getting demographics can be tricky).

But, how do you measure (2) and (3)?

It helps to know nonprofits (and this philanthropists) can only measure the immediate impact people get from working with you. This is what they walk out of the door with. Everything after that is up to the complexity of the world and living it in (talk to me to hear more about that!).

If you really think about it, immediate impact can only be one or more of the following:

Accomplishments – what people achieve while working with you. The Urban Institute has developed a great list.

Knowledge, skills, and access – what people internalized from working with you and how much more they now know or know how to do. I’ve created a Smart Survey example to show you how to word those questions.

Confidence and motivation – whether people plan to take what they got and use it in the future (also see the Smart Survey example).

Relevance and Satisfaction – how people felt about working with you; these are really critical questions for building equity. Listen4Good has survey templates for this.

That’s. Literally. It.


Learn more in the ImpactStory Academy!

Partnerships for Strategic Impact

At Partnerships for Strategic Impact®, I have all the tools to build out the structures and strategies you need for collecting actionable impact data; I train staff in how to use them, analyze data, and make action steps for change; I teach you to tell powerful impact stories. My goal is your sustainability: I provide just the right amount of coaching and ongoing support to ensure success.

This is within reach. It’s not harder than managing your budget. Plus, you, your funders, and the people you serve deserve to know more about the value your organization delivers.

If you’re reading this, then you’re already part of my network. Schedule some time on my calendar. There’s no sales pitch and no obligation. Just curiosity and answering your questions. I am the seasoned program-evaluation, program-development, data-storytelling consultants you need, right in your back pocket. I am here to bring order to the process of figuring out how to track and use your impact story.

– Maryfrances

Your ImpactStory™ Coach

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By Published On: June 6th, 2023Categories: Blog - Powerful Data AnalysisComments Off on What do I do with all this data?