4 Ways to Support Staff’s Use of Data for Program Improvement

Nobody’s perfect, amiright, folks? Every day we are living, human beings striving to become our best selves. The same can be said for those committed to offering quality programs and initiatives.

Of course, in order to improve we need to set realistic, SMART goals for what we want to achieve, collect information to assess how far we’ve come, and decide what the next steps are along the way. These steps towards achieving goals are the path of program improvement. 

For program improvement efforts, it is essential that program staff learn the importance of data and how to use it to support their work. While leadership in nonprofits and community-based organizations reference the data to regularly communicate progress to their board, the community, funders and other external audiences, program staff utilize the data for internal purposes and program improvement.  

By strategically and intentionally creating processes around staff’s data use for program improvement, you’ll be well on your way to a thriving learning culture in your organization. Here are four steps to getting you started.

1. Schedule purposeful time for education and training.

What is staff onboarding like in terms of understanding the importance and reasoning behind why program data is collected and monitored? Why do they collect the data they do and to what purpose? 

How often are staff given the opportunity to hone their skills in data collection or analysis? Does it vary by staff type or program? 

2. Develop a workflow document. 

This is a document that outlines who needs what data, at what time, and for what purpose.  There may be several depending on the scope.

The doc should be regularly reviewed and updated as needed. Who on your team is responsible for that maintenance?

3. Use technology to support data entry and analysis.

It can be as simple or high-tech as you need it, just as long as you are using it and it makes sense for your team. 

I’ve used Excel spreadsheets with automated formulas and dashboards, Data Management Systems and their reporting software, and data visualization software including PowerBI and Tableau. 

4. Share the data often and regularly. 

Your team has the best answer as to when and how that information should be shared with program staff. Is it at a routine team meeting? Is it over email or on a shared online dashboard? 

Ask for their feedback and interpretation of the findings. This ensures that staff sees how data is transformed into usable information that then informs programmatic improvement efforts! 

Share how you are intentional about data use in your own organization, below! 

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