Would you believe me if I said that 90% of nonprofits collect data? You probably would. The statistic isn’t too hard to believe — many might even expect it. Now, what if I told you that only 49% of these nonprofits know how their data is collected? Numbers like that might well shock and discourage most of you. And yet they’re true.
A study by Nonprofit Hub found exactly that — less than half of nonprofits who collect data know the methods used to gather it. The number of nonprofits collecting data is great. Data is important. But it needs to be equitable data. When data is not collected efficiently and using a lens of equity, it’s basically useless to nonprofits.
Equitable data is comprehensive, inclusive, and unbiased. In short, it’s the only kind of data that really matters to nonprofits. (Or at least, it should be.) When data lacks these qualities, it is unable to inspire actionable change. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why nonprofits should make a point of prioritizing equitable data.
It Improves Accuracy
How can equitable data be more accurate? Numbers are numbers!
Not true. When data is collected without an equity lens, the potential for bias within that data skyrockets. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are — we are all biased by our experiences, and that worldview can creep into the way we collect, analyze, and visualize data. And unfortunately, that biased data can skew the truth and give us an inaccurate representation of the population we’re studying.
It Increases Data’s Potential
Equitable data is trustworthy data. And trustworthy data can be used, shared, and reused — over and over again. Data sharing comes with a myriad of benefits for nonprofits: financial savings, improved analysis, and more effective use of resources.
But the only way to realize those benefits is by ensuring that we share only equitable data. Otherwise, we risk perpetuating untrue or biased ideas about the people or issues we’re working with.
It Helps Avoid Overlooking Insights
When we collect data using a people-centered, thorough approach, we get comprehensive, equitable data. By definition, equitable data prevents us from leaving valuable insights on the table — which is an even bigger deal that you think it is.
When we overlook valuable insights our data can provide, our organizations are unable to successfully create and implement strategies that allow us to secure funding or enact positive change. Ensuring our data truly considers everyone we’re studying is a step toward making our efforts more effective.
It is Actionable
Equitable data is actionable data. We can’t take action if we can’t entirely trust the information we have. But (as I’ve already mentioned) equitable data is both accurate and trustworthy — meaning organizations can safely take steps based on what it says.
When you have actionable data, you can gain deeper insights into the situation or population you’re examining, secure funding, and obtain the volunteers or support your cause needs.
It Facilitates Informed Decisions
Vague, generalized data that we’re not really sure about is, at best, unhelpful. (It can be downright misleading.) Equitable data, on the other hand, offers clear, accurate facts, numbers, and timelines.
Many nonprofits are working with limited resources. Even well-funded nonprofits want to maximize their resource use so they can help as many people as possible. With the kind of information equitable data provides, both nonprofits and their funders can make informed decisions about how to help, how to help, and where to most effectively spend budget dollars.
Need Help Collecting Equitable Data?
It’s not always easy to collect equitable data. Your nonprofit will need a specific toolset to ensure your data is collected and analyzed with an equity lens. Many nonprofits run into problems collecting data because they use a wide range of tools that are not compatible with one another — which leads to inaccurate and biased data, which is of no use to nonprofits. In some cases, using biased data can significantly damage your reputation and finances.
At Datassist, we specialize in the creation of data collection and analysis tools for nonprofits. We work with nonprofit organizations to help make their data collection equitable, comprehensive, efficient, and compatible. If you’d like help ensuring your organization is only using data in a way that benefits everyone, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help.