One lesson from all my experience across working closely with a dozen organisations over 23 years is we don't do data enough. In the world of big data, cheap systems and savvy young staff the data gap is one we can't afford: it's a missed opportunity to do the best we can in our mission and an easy opportunity to demonstrate to funders and supporters that you understand your challenges, you're delivering change and you can share learning for wider impact.
Here's a data checklist for you. If you can tick all points you're doing very very well:
Hopefully you're able to answer a confident "yes" to all up to at least point 11. If not don't worry, but please plan to get at least that far. The good news is you can do it - the management bit at least - with a pencil (or your computer if you want to get all technical on me). All you need to do is sketch tables of what results you need, work out where those numbers come from and then plan how to consistently record those numbers. Your plan might involve training for you or a team member, new ways of recording data, maybe a regular routine of doing some simple analysis, maybe a chat with your senior managers or board to see what they want and what they'll resource. Last of all it might - only might - require some IT development or a new system but you should be super cautious about this. My quess is you've already got what you need to do the basics well, you just need to engage with it and not expect the system to do the analytical thinking for you.
I can help you with this. My first job was in database development, I understand charity operational processes and reporting needs and I've done analysis work for household name NGOs and small local organisations. I'm pretty busy right now but if what you need is just a hand thinking it through then please get in touch.
Please comment if you can add points to my checklist. Thanks!
This was the week of International Women's Day and I feel I must comment.
99% of the time we assess what's happening in our life and make our plans using common sense but occasionally it's helpful to structure our thinking.
Domainal mapping is a tool I've found useful on several occasions. It allows you to understand a range of influences (often relationships) associated with a particular role in work or life and get a sense of perspective, as well as perhaps to identify some useful actions to help you progress.
I've used it most when I've either been feeling strain from change at work or I've been at some other turning point in my life. Google "domainal mapping" and you'll find a few articles about the technique, mostly focused on using it in very worky roles, but I tend to find that when I have decisions to make I need to consider what's going on outside work as well as within it. Mapping work and non-work "domains" alongside each other gives me a useful sense of perspective: "No wonder I'm stressed, look at all the crazy stuff going on!", or, "Hang on, I'm preoccupied with finishing that report and I really have other things to worry about - things that are more fixable.".
Perhaps you will find it useful to hear about my experience of setting myself up as a consultant, and how you can work with me.
Setting up has been pretty easy, so far, although I think I've had my share of luck. In my first couple of months I establishrf marketing activities, and working out administrative stuff like tax and insurance. I found that the experience I have of running an organisation and of running projects gave me most of the knowledge and skills I needed, and where I needed help it was available through my network or, occasionally, from Internet resources (HMRC have some pretty good stuff). I have shared some tips in this article...
My recent survey of blog readers, LinkedIn and Twitter contacts indicates that understanding each other and our differences is our biggest challenge to working in partnership. Now I am building on the research results to design a course that will improve your ability to bring organisations together to create impact.
After 23 years of work I am still learning about what I do well and what I enjoy, and trying to become a better learner. Dealing with the challenge of senior management at Engineers Without Borders pushed me to be real about life and work and led me to decide to give up an amazing job at CEO level, even though I’d be trying to get to that level for five years. I hope the experience has changed me – I certainly think I’m on the right path now.