Some organisations find that they are “data-rich” but “information-poor”, so they have large amounts of data, but they are unable to convert this data into meaningful information usually because they are tracking the wrong data altogether. This post will ensure you overcome this challenge by posing three questions that can help define your organization’s relevant data requirements so that you can become “information-rich”.
1. Who are we serving?
Demographics identify your participant population. Demographics can be transformed into information with appropriate demographic and intake reports.
Demographic and intake data uses:
- Identify the demographic make-up of your past and current participants
- Identify if you are serving your “target population”
- Determine if there is a particular set of participants that you aren’t serving
- Determine if there is a particular set of unintended participants that you are serving
- Report to funders about a certain population or set of participants
- Comply with mandatory grant reporting requirements
- Identify improvements to your outreach and referral efforts to ensure you are serving those who are targeted in your mission
- Intake reports can also be used to demonstrate the status of participants at program intake and program exit
2. How are we serving?
Service tracking is not only important in determining what you are doing, it is a key component to comprehensive outcome and impact tracking and reporting. One of ETO software’s primary functions is to track services, activities, and attendance for participants and entities via a range of functionalities, including:
- Attendance reporting can be used to track attendance rates, number of classes attended, along with frequency and duration of classes. Attendance is a straightforward ETO software output tracking functionality.
- Referral reports are another output tracking functionality that report on the number of referrals, and to whom and for what reason each referral was made. Tracking the status or outcome of referrals allows organizations to report on referral quality as well.
- Casemanagement reporting is important in assessing and reporting the amount of time case managers are spending with participants, the quality of the case manager and participant relationship, and any progress across goals.
Service tracking data uses:
- Determine the amount of services provided
- Determine the number of services being accessed by participants
- Determine the frequency, quality, and time spent on activities
- Identify the services most or least utilized by participants
- Identify any gaps in services that may be needed for the population you are serving
- Track a participant’s level of engagement
- Track the progression of services accessed by participants, determining how quickly participants move from one activity to another or how advanced participants become relative to service levels
3. What impact are we having?
It is important to ensure you are able to answer this question with integrity, consistency, and accuracy. ETO software is specifically designed to track and report outcomes and impacts using a range of options:
- Pre and post questions on forms (Assessments or Touchpoints): Track the impact of a service, or an entire program using pre and post questions. This type of outcome reporting can be used for both short and long term outcome tracking, but can also be used to track major changes in behavior, knowledge, and access in a participant’s progress.
- Post-program surveys: This single set of data allows for tracking of outcomes for participant satisfaction, self-evaluation, and a participant’s experience with the program or service.
- Participant progress based on a weighted scale or score: ETO software is designed to track incremental change. Incremental change can be tracked consistently and accurately with weighted scores and response scales. This data can be entered and reported consistently to monitor participant progress as well as the quality and performance of your programs or services.
- Program progression: Organizations often have programs that build upon a previous program, so tracking a participant’s progression through programs can show a program’s ability to move a participant through sets of services. It can also track the retention rate of programs.
- Referral report: Tracking where referrals are coming from can be an indicator or your organization’s community impact.
Outcome and impact data uses:
Quality outcome tracking and impact reporting can have a significant positive impact on your organization as a whole. If you can prove both internally and externally that your programs are helping participants become successful or find that participants don’t deteriorate in your programs, you have both a story and the data to support your organization’s impact.
Regularly Assess the structure of your ETO database
These three questions help you to define a base set of data and create a solid foundation. From this foundation, you can intentionally expand the capabilities of your ETO database to answer deeper questions about your programs and services.
It is therefore recommended that your organization regularly review these questions to determine how well you are tracking and reporting on these base sets of data.
- Are there areas you could improve?
- Are you able to prove the impacts you are having?
- Are you able to empirically say you are meeting your mission?
Revisit these questions on a semi-annual or annual basis to ensure your data and reports are fresh and relevant. Identify improvements and update the structure of your ETO database or your ETO reports to ensure a more functional ETO database.