Not-for-profits missing the data train

Posted on 03 Jun 2019

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

More than one in 10 not-for-profits doesn’t bother tracking its success, while one in four say they don’t collect any type of data, with arts, culture, sport and recreation groups the least likely to measure their success.

Spotlight data report cover

Early results from a national not-for-profit governance survey by the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA), which gathered the views of nearly 1900 not-for-profit leaders, show that:

  • 13% of organisations don’t measure success in any way
  • More than half of all organisations collect some type of data
  • Only 38% of all organisations collect outcomes data
  • Most not-for-profits rank themselves as no better than average when it comes to managing data collection, analysis and use
  • Bigger organisations are way in front when it comes to tracking: 79% of organisations with revenue of $1 million to $10 million track performance against their strategic plan, compared with 40% of small groups.

The report is the product of an ICDA sister organisation, the Innovation Lab, where data scientist Paola Oliva-Altamirano analysed the survey results alongside Our Community executive director Kathy Richardson.

“While there is clearly a long way to go for some organisations, it’s heartening to note that the majority of organisations are collecting data and using it to track their results,” Ms Richardson said.

“Having made the transition to being a data-competent organisation ourselves over the past five years, we’re now working on helping not-for-profit organisations make a similar change, with our new headquarters – Our Community House – incorporating a team of data scientists ready and willing to assist organisations to ratchet up.

“We’re also working on helping social sector organisations to become more confident in tracking their impact. We’re working on an Outcomes Engine – a tech tool to help grantmakers track their impact – and earlier this week we hosted the Practical Impact Conference for not-for-profits at OC House.”

Among the special guests at the event was world-renowned data-for-good thinker Andrew Means, who talked about how to introduce data into organisational strategy.

ICDA will release further insights from the survey in stages, with the full release of all the data due in late 2019.

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