March 13, 2017 Philanthropy

The Importance of Having a Data Strategy

What possibilities does a data strategy offer to a charitable funder?  As we noted in our 2015 paper Emerging Digital Practices for the Philanthropic Sector, a data strategy allows you to:

  • benefit from the data collected by other stakeholders (including other nonprofits, funders, all levels of government);
  • reduce overlap and increase collaboration with other organizations;
  • leverage existing collection activities – for example by incorporating your data needs into the collection done by other actors; and
  • stay aware of changes to your data environments (reporting changes, new measurement or data publishing standards) to identify opportunities in time to respond to them.

Funders are potential leaders in this area. By creating data strategies for themselves and for their grantees, they can pave the way for Canadian charities to have more impact.  

Since 2015 the federal government has demonstrated a renewed interest in data strategies with its focus on deliverology, open government, and evidence-based policy making, as well as an important initiative to share federal grants data.  Some major funders such as Ontario Trillium Foundation have explored data strategies to open up and share their own grants data.  Imagine Canada is convening a working group on data and trying to put more light on why they are important.  A recent conference in Toronto, Transform The Sector organized by the nonprofit Powered By Data featured  discussions on many of the newest strategies for collecting data and measuring impact. PFC will be working with Powered By Data in 2017 to update our data practices guide for funders and to keep the spotlight on this crucial set of tools for funders interested in impact.

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