Analyzes data from a survey of staff from eight nonprofits and their funding organizations to determine the extent to which each group believes data is being used in decision making processes.

The resource first summarizes prior research on data driven decision making (DDDM) that finds “using verifiable data instead of intuition to make decisions can be a valuable business strategy in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations” (p.1). It then indicates that while few nonprofits have relied on DDDM in the past, this is changing due in part to funder expectations. The resource’s own addition to this field is based on surveys of staff at nonprofits in April 2013 that “were selected by a venture philanthropy foundation in an open competition to receive funding and technical assistance to develop or expand mission-driven businesses called social enterprises” (p.6). “This research examines DDDM in eight nonprofit organizations by assessing it from the perspective of both staff in a position to use data at a nonprofit organization and funders working to increase it. It shows that large differences exist in the perceptions of and support for an organization’s DDDM activities both among staff at an organization and between funders and organization staff. The divergence in views of an organization’s DDDM suggests that attempts to increase reliance on data to make decisions might be hindered by a lack of consensus on what it actually means to use data to make decisions” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“[The authors] found that most organization staff see their organization as undertaking some DDDM activities, but the extent of consensus about the undertaking varies considerably by activity. For example, more than 90% of staff reported their organization collects data on an employee’s job performance, but only about 55% reported data are collected on the life circumstances of workers after social enterprise employment (even though a central goal of these organizations is to improve workers’ long-run circumstances). Perceptions of organization staff suggest that data are often collected but less often analyzed…For example, although more than 90% said the organization collects data on job performance, only about 81% said someone in the organization analyzes it, and although about 64% said the organization collects information on the demand for business, only about 44% say someone analyzes it…One potential explanation for this difference is in what it means to analyze data. In general, organization staff reported that they believe in using data to make decisions, but reported less confidence in their organization’s ability to do so. All organization staff said they believed that using data could improve services provided to employees and 83% said they believed using data builds an understanding of how the enterprise operates. Only 14% believed using data took away from spending time helping employees (the population they desire to help). Somewhat fewer staff believed the organization’s culture supports DDDM: about 72% believed that using data is part of their organization’s culture, 69% said that their organization uses data well, 50% said that the organization has sufficient resources to collect data, and 44% said that the organization has an efficient data collection system in place” (p.8-9). (Abstractor: Author)