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When you start down the data path, you can avoid becoming a scurrying mouse, running every which way through the forest and feeling overwhelmed by tall grasses and trees. Let’s look to a few other creatures for great ways to approach gathering knowledge about how to collect and measure data.

mouseSo far in our blog series, we’ve looked at what you ought to know about data, how to use data to get more funding, how to choose your data expert, and how to keep your data safe.

With all of that great information under your belt, you’re ready to make the leap into the wild data yonder.

How do you know what techniques and tactics will work for you?

How do you keep track of your knowledge base without going nuts?

For one thing, avoid being a mouse in a field, and choose one of these other animals’ approaches to gathering what they need.

  1. The Squirrel Approach

squirrel nutsTake an autumn walk in any old park and you’ll spy squirrels carrying their treasures here and there, filling their mouths with small seeds or carrying one nut at a time.

They carefully stockpile their wares because they know it’s a big forest out there.

In a similar vein, all of your information about how to collect and measure data—blog posts, white papers and eBooks—can all get lost in the virtual forest of your hard-drive.

To avoid getting lost, start small and develop a squirrel-like stockpile of resources over time.

You can also use Evernote, OneNote, Trello, or any other online collaborative tool to help you track your resources while keeping them easily available.

  1. The Primate Approach

Human and non-human primates alike are the most sharing creatures on the planet.

But when was the last time you rang up your other friendly neighbourhood nonprofits and asked them about their data knowledge—or shared yours?

With the primate approach, you act like a good nonprofit citizen by sharing your knowledge and contributing to a “community of practice.”

This approach also opens the door to benchmarks, outcomes, and successes that can inform your decision making.

Data is definitely not a competition; when you find out what other organizations with similar missions have learned, this will give you a better idea of where you stand.

  1. The Sniffer Dog Approach

basset hound huntingDetection dogs have super snouts for hunting contraband and big game.

So try channeling your inner Basset Hound to sniff out the best free and affordable data tools you can.

On the Datassist blog, we’ve reviewed things like Tableau public, explained sneaky-sharp Excel hacks, and reviewed how to extract data from PDFs.

Sniffing around our site can bring back some excellent low-cost data tools and tactics.

Here are some other sniff-worthy articles:

  1. The Bee Approach

beeBees communicate with each other through behavior-triggering chemicals and “there’s the food” dances.

You don’t have to douse yourself in pheromones or go tangoing to start a data dialogue, but you do need to connect with others in your “hive.”

For example, start by taking an online course or attending a meet-up, then report back at a staff meeting about what you learned.

This approach will coordinate your efforts from the get-go and get you into the habit of keeping your “collective” updated on your data knowledge.

  1. The Dolphin Approach

dolphin podDolphins are highly connected creatures that hang out in fluid pods.

This means that they stay in groups, but the groups constantly change.

You too can be a dolphin by connecting with data services organizations, even if you’re not in the service-buying stage yet.

See what they offer and get the skinny on their solutions. Sign up for their newsletters and read their blogs.

Blackbaud has an incredible wealth of how-tos, surveys and white papers. You can search its Knowledgebase on just about anything non-profit related.

NTEN has scads of resources on data, from webinars to workbooks.

And of course, Datassist is always here to help!

Find your animal

You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make by using one or all five of these approaches to gathering information and data.

The main takeaway?

Start small, get out into the wilderness, and keep communicating with your pack.

You are now ready for data school with the final post in our data culture series, How to Become Data Literate in 7 Easy Steps

[dismissable_alert class=”alert-info” ]Stay tuned as Datassist guides readers over the coming weeks in building an organizational data culture. Datassist is consistently providing real-world answers to unique data-based questions, and turns data into stories and pictures people talk about.

…So take time right now to:

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