“In God we trust; all others must bring data.” I first heard this quote that is generally attributed to Dr. W. E. Deming, about fifteen years ago when the organization I was working for launched a quality initiative. As a for profit company in a very mature market, the only way to sustain profitability was through continuous process improvements: the “better, faster, cheaper” model of performance. This quote has resonated with me ever since because it so richly depicts the link between data and trust.
While trust is important for any organization, it is essential in the nonprofit sector. As the Center’s wonderful President, Cynthia Nunn, often states in board trainings, we are the caretakers of agencies that are held, in trust, for the citizens of the state of
. That responsibility should not be taken lightly! Texas
The question for us becomes, how can we communicate to our stakeholders (and the citizens of our fair state) how we are effectively using the funding and resources that we are given to achieve our mission? Every day we see the examples of the differences we make in our communities and in the lives of those we serve. And, hopefully, we are able to tell powerful stories from those examples. However, while powerful, these individual stories often only tell the breadth of the impact our agencies have. The depth to which we make an impact can only be described using aggregate data.
As funding for our programs and services becomes more limited, the demand for us to illustrate how we are delivering on our mission is increasing. The public, grantors and foundations are no longer willing to listen to the individual stories alone. They want to know how their monies and resources are being used and they want to see data that supports our assertions that we are making a difference in our community. They want to trust that we are making an impact.
Unfortunately, data collection and analysis is not always something nonprofits have excelled in. But, it is a skill set that we will need to obtain and to enhance. We need to leverage the knowledge and skills of each other in order to communicate individually and collectively the importance of the nonprofit sector.
To that end, the Center for Nonprofit Management would like to host quarterly meetings for individuals who are tasked with data analysis to see if we can support one another in developing this competency in
North Texas. If this is something that you might be interested in participating in, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Frear, SPHR, CQM/OE
Director of Education
Center for Nonprofit Management