The Power of data mirrors

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Looking into a data mirror can be a powerful experience. In the 60-Second Data Tip series, we have talked quite a bit about nonprofit managers, fundraisers, board members, and funders looking at organization-wide or individual program data to understand what to do next. And last week, we spoke about sharing data charts, graphs, and maps with our clientele to better understand trends. However, data can be a tool not just for planning and evaluation at the organizational level, but for personal change.

You may ask, don’t I already know a lot about myself? Do I really need to consult a data chart for self discovery? Well, research evidence suggests that we often think we know more than we actually do. We are wired to rely on the knowledge of others and sometimes we mistake their knowledge for our own (stay tuned for a tip on this). Also, sometimes we simply are not paying much attention to ourselves.

So a data mirror can be revealing. For example, you may think you spent the whole day on our feet, but the data on your Fitbit may show you otherwise.

As discussed in Data Tip #1, nonprofits tend to have a lot of data that never gets used or used well. Instead, it collects virtual dust on your server. But what if you blew the dust off of some of that data, visualized a single client’s data (e.g. her level of participation in your programs over time) and shared it with her? The data could lead to a conversation about what promoted progress and what stumbling blocks led to downward trends. Regular data feedback can be motivating, as we know from Fitbits and video games and goal-setting apps. Sharing data with clientele could be a secret weapon you didn’t know you had.

See other data tips in this series for more information on how to effectively visualize and make good use of your organization's data.