Use this page as a very basic introduction to data and insight and why they matter to community groups and charities. The support with data and insight section listed above signposts you to related NCVO guidance and other organisations with information.
Data is any collection of information you have. It becomes useful information if you process and analyse it to learn things (gain insights).
Here is a selection of different things you might have that you can get data from.
There are also many types of data available publicly that your organisation might be able to use, including information published below.
We have a data and insight section in our digital and technology pages, because digital tools are key to helping us work with data. They can help us:
Handling data safely is important. For information that could identify or contribute to identifying an individual you have a series of legal duties related to that safety. This is covered in our section on data protection.
If your organisation needs to demonstrate the difference it makes (outcomes and impact) and how it does this (outputs) it needs data. You need it to learn from what went well and what needs improving. You need it to provide evidence and be accountable. It is particularly important if you're applying for funding. Most funders need you to provide some reports on what you do.
You might think of this as knowing whether you’ve met your aims, objectives, goals or targets.
This is most commonly known as impact or impact assessment. It also includes monitoring and evaluation which form part of the impact assessment picture.
Doing this well is particularly important if you want to apply for funding.
You will usually report on some or all of:
You'll need to:
Here are some things to consider to keep on track when collecting data.
Fortunately there's lots of advice online that you can work through to start managing data for your organisation. For larger organisations, there are expert consultants who specialise in supporting community interest companies and charities to get this right. Smaller organisations can look for advice through regional networks.
NCVO has impact specialists who provide training and consultancy. We have a selection of practical support articles, training courses in related subjects and consultants who can advise you. Our focus is the whole picture rather than the digital side of data.
These are some other key organisations working with data or impact. We recommend you sign up for regular emails. Skim their weekly update and read articles when they interest you. Sign up for free webinars and training events when the topics are relevant.
Inspiring Impact provides simple resources that help you make the most out of data. Its goal is to help you learn from the information you have so you can support the people you work with better.
Like NCVO, NPC provide charities with support, advice and guidance on data and insight topics. They also have resources, training and consultants. Their resources come as pdfs which often explain the research behind their recommendations as well as giving practical suggestions.
Datakind are specialists in giving free advice about data science. They connect volunteers with charities and other community organisations to help you work out what to do with large or complex sets of data you've collected. They understand the software and tools to help you understand what your data can actually tell you.
Find out more about these offers, how to apply and charities they've worked with. Datakind UK ‘What we do’ page.
Many digital volunteering schemes will have volunteers who can help with the digital side of data. They can help with things like making the best use of analytics, heat maps and other web-based tools.
Check with your local infrastructure support organisations who support community groups and charities. Ask them if there's an organisation with a focus on supporting charities to use data well in the area. Use our guide to how to find local infrastructure organisations.
One example is London. Superhighways and Datawise London are two organisations specialising in data and impact.
They run training programmes only available to London-based organisations but anyone can use their online resources.
Open data aims to make the world a better place by sharing information. Find out more from the Open Data Institute (ODI).
If you want to audit how well your organisation is doing with data and find out how to do more you can try the data maturity assessment tool by Data Orchard.
This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021
Inspiring Impact is a coalition of six organisations from across the UK. Meet the people making it happen
NCVO Charities Evaluation Services helps voluntary organisations, volunteering programmes and their funders with practical impact measurement and evaluation.
We help social change organisations use data science
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