May I Have a Moment of Your Time?

 By: Kelsey Cadran

The importance of Data

The phone rings, you answer. “Hello?” “Hi There, we are conducting a survey, may I have a moment of your time?” What is your first response? Hang up? Tell them you’re busy? Or take a few moments and answer the few questions? 

Data can be a powerful resource, but the information needs to be valid and plentiful for it to be useful. The more people that participate in the survey and answer those questions with sound responses the better the results. That moment in time you choose to answer those few questions can really help an organization, cause, or individual achieve a result that may just benefit you! 

Me? Yes, you! But how? 

Those surveys can gather enough information to find a need in a community, develop an idea that could address a common interest, or just in general get people more interested and invested. There is a reason why people offer discounts, or incentives for just a few answers. These persons and places rely on the information to help better serve the public, while yes, benefitting themselves as well. You may find that surveys, polls, and questionnaires are time consuming and just downright annoying, at times I’d have to agree. That phone call at dinner time, or while you’re just on your way out the door “Could you please answer a few questions?” is frustrating, but understanding why can change that mood. Simple questions like “do you have children?” or “what is your usual method of transportation” could be polling for information about whether a not a town may be considering spending money on putting in additional resources in the town for public use. 

Non-profits collect information on various data points to help understand the needs of the community they reside or serve.  With this information they are able to discover what might be areas of need, and direct them toward applying for certain grants. Once the funding is established data is collected to show progress and requirements of funders. Data elements can be anywhere from demographic to service related. Without collecting this information, there is no way to tell whether you are being effective with your method other than a case by case basis, and assumptions. There’s a saying that goes around “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.”

Recently I learned that a local museum in my town that is funded by a state agency is losing their funding. While I don’t know the exact reason, it leads me to wonder if they do not find value in funding a project that is just not getting the volume of visits it was expecting. When you walked in the door the first thing you see is a little note that says “Please sign our guestbook!” my immediate reaction was to think, they’re collecting data. They want to know how many people are stopping by, and where they are coming from. Something as simple as signing a guest book could be the reason a non-profit entity makes or breaks it. 

The idea of this blog entry is to get the message across that your input matters! So the next time you are faced with a survey, a simple questionnaire, a guestbook, take a second and respond. Your valid input is important! 

LINKS to some additional articles: 

Nonprofit use of Big Data:  http://allegiancesoftware.com/nonprofit-industry-news/nonprofit-technology/the-401-on-big-data-analytics-for-nonprofit-management/

Nonprofit Data Users – Challenges:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adnan-mahmud/nonprofit-data-users-3-ch_b_4960313.html

Nonprofit Performance Management: Using Data to Measure and Improve Programs.  https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2013/07/02/using-outcomes-to-measure-nonprofit-success/

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