Measuring your non-profit organisation’s impact is crucial. It helps you determine what level of change you are making and can improve your decision-making process.

Valcare recently hosted a training session on “Impact”, focusing on how information and communications technology (ICT) can play a significant role in data management processes. Valcare’s monitoring and evaluation officer, Oupa Muchenga, presented the training. It also featured a presentation by Mosaic Community Developments’ Meyer Conradie, who shared the details of their Wellbi tool.

According to Oupa Muchenga, organisations in the non-profit sector tend to be sceptical or misinformed about data; however, if utilised correctly, ICT in data management can be beneficial. Here are the top tips from the training on data demand and use in the non-profit sector.

Optimise your data to achieve your objectives

When you collect data, you are setting yourself up for success. Using the data your organisation collects for decision-making purposes means your decisions and plans are informed, which could lead to more significant impact and meaningful outcomes.

To achieve informed decision-making, you must analyse, interpret and apply your data to gain knowledge, improve processes, develop strategies, or create value.

Make use of “quality intentional data”

Not all data can drive insights and inform decision-making. Only “quality intentional data” (data collected for a specific purpose) will help improve evidence-based decisions that improve outcomes and impact. It helps to improve decisions based on evidence that leads to better outcomes and, ultimately, impact.

Spending more money does not guarantee effective data

Refrain from falling into the trap of spending much money to receive sound data. The myth is that money will get you your desired outcome; however, with data usage and evaluation, spending more money only sometimes guarantees good data or insights. Instead, look for qualified professionals and researchers to guide your efforts.

Recognise your barriers to data use

Recognising the common barriers to data use in your organisation is essential. Analysing these barriers helps you create solutions and an environment that promotes data use within your organisation. To effectively identify the barriers, you can easily organise the barriers into potential determinants affecting your decision-making process. These barriers fall into three categories: organisational, technological and behavioural. Organisational barriers may include poor organisational structures that do not allow data-driven decision-making processes. Technological barriers include the limited technical capacity of staff to manage data. Behavioural barriers include the perceptions of staff towards data that may lead to a lack of motivation to collect quality data. The determinants of data use contribute to the under-utilisation of data.

Cultivate a culture of good data practice

Many non-profit organisations, especially grassroots-level NPOs, get discouraged by the mention of data at their organisation—the assumption being that only big organisations have data. This is untrue. Every organisation has some form of data in their operations. These data forms can include registers, inventory lists, and activity reports. Managing data requires a culture of good data practice. This ensures that the collected data is clean and high-quality, regardless of how small. Using spreadsheets in Excel, Google Sheets, or similar programs can be a great starting point. The idea is to start somewhere.

Data use in the non-profit sector is beneficial for improving organisational operations. These tips encourage positive data-driven decision-making processes to achieve a more significant impact.