More support needed for data-driven decision-making in Georgia nonprofits

Findings from the State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey

The Nonprofit Finance Fund  demonstrates that there’s a gap between resources and need in the area of data and outcomes for Georgia nonprofits.

The past decade has brought immense changes to expectations about how nonprofits demonstrate effectiveness through the use of data. Funders and grant makers are placing increasing expectations on organizations to provide evidence of effectiveness.

This is a good thing for the nonprofit sector. We want to be able to demonstrate to the public that investing in social good is not just an extension of goodwill but will lead to demonstrable impact on social and individual wellbeing.

But nonprofit leaders across Georgia and the nation indicate that funding specifically to increase organizational capacity to manage data and report on outcomes doesn’t seem to be matching demand.

Survey Results

Survey data indicate that most Georgia nonprofits are engaged in collecting program metrics, measuring impact, and using data to inform decision-making. Of the 32 nonprofit organizations reporting from Georgia, 84% collect metrics, 77% measure impact, and 81% use data to inform decision-making.

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However, when it comes to support, nonprofits are sharing that there are few resources dedicated to enhancing capacity to report on data and outcomes.

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In the past year, three-quarters of nonprofits have indicated that they have not received funding to support capacity building for data and outcomes. These numbers are similar across the country (73%) and in other states across the south (North Carolina — 73%; South Carolina — 78%; Tennessee — 57%).

What these numbers indicate is that most nonprofits are being asked to report on outcomes, but are not receiving the resources needed to do so.

In the qualitative data from the survey, one nonprofit leader remarked:

Federal funding agencies, with new regulations are expecting more outcomes without providing additional funding. The impact is felt with partner agencies also so customers are having difficulty getting services not only from us but other services providers also.

Still, roughly two-thirds (74%) of Georgia nonprofits have dedicated staff working on data and outcomes. While it is unclear from the survey data as to how these positions are funded, it is possible that resources for these positions are supported in part from funding sources that are not specifically related to data and outcomes.

When asked whether Georgia nonprofits would seek funding to support work on outcomes, there appears to be enthusiasm. 42% of respondents indicated that they are “extremely likely” or “very likely” to pursue outcomes-based grants or contracts.

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We’ll see in the coming years whether funding and resources will catch up to this enthusiasm.

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Andrew Reynolds