Jim Fruchterman, Benetech CEO, has written an article published today in the Summer 2016 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the growing urgency in the social sector to make better use of data to inform decision-making and evaluate performance. An excerpt follows:
Everyone in the social sector, it seems, is discussing how to use data to deliver social good. The coming years will no doubt see the continued growth in data-driven nonprofits and social businesses, operating in an environment that increasingly seeks and even demands evidence of impact.
The goal of this article is to demystify the data explosion and to provide practical advice to nonprofit and social business leaders for harnessing these trends in two important ways. As a sector, we need to use data to respond to today’s needs, to manage our teams better, and to improve our efficiency. This is what I call “data for action.” At the same time, and I hope with much of the same data, the social sector needs to use data to establish that our interventions lead to lasting change. This is the Holy Grail for donors, policymakers, and social sector leaders. This is what I call “data for impact.”
The true power of data will come when we learn how to link these two approaches seamlessly. That’s because data for action and data for impact are two sides of the same coin. If we can collect the data we need for making our programs better, we will have taken a critical first step toward delivering evidence of our ultimate social goal, lasting impact.