A story that Jacob Harold from Guidestar mentioned to me was – where are the financial data the most important? Where the impact data is most important? He brought up an interesting example where he said if my job is just to build homeless shelters, then maybe what you’re interested in are the finances of my nonprofit to see how well I’ve used my resources. But if I really wanted to find out whether I’m delivering impact, maybe you actually want to look at the Yelp reviews of people using my homeless shelter.
And it depends on not really one or the other – obviously somewhat of a laugh there – and so cases where we’re getting a fuller spectrum on the finance data alongside programmatic data. I think it’s creating this really interesting opportunity to use both. Certainly finance – I guess what I’m getting at here is that there’s not a clear line. What I think is really important about this: instead of talking about where that line is, one of the things I see helping organizations figure out how to use that program data or finance data comes down to this difference someone pointed out to me of being data-driven or data-informed.
The difference that they gave me was this: Data-driven meant that you had decided upon some measures that you wanted to look at, for example, a monthly run rate in my finances, and I can continually look at that number and I look at a graph of that number every day or every week, whatever I need to make decisions. And that’s great.
But there’s this second level that seems to be coming in of what they call data-informed, which is the ability to incorporate new data into your process.
[On the data-driven level,] that financial data, you can set up a system to collect it and look at it then it just kind of stays that way. It can get calcified. The [data-informed level is the] ability to, say, do what that group at the World Bank did, to scrape price data off of a website, or when a grocery store opens up an RSS feed of its prices. Having the skills to collect that information and incorporate it with the financial data that you have or find new sources of financial information to me is one of the distinguishing factors between the groups I see moving ahead, and really leaping ahead, is having those skills.
Editor's note: The above is an excerpt from our January 2014 webinar titled The Power of Information. However, videos from Spreecast are no longer available due to a change in business model.