To make better decisions, follow the data

Posted on 14 Nov 2022

By Adele Stowe-Lindner, general manager, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Binoculars Woman i Stock 16:9

Measuring really matters, because knowing what effect you’ve had and how well your strategies have worked gives you the power and the confidence to make the right decisions more often.

Often it is around the time of the AGM that boards and not-for-profit executives will take stock of their organisations and seek the support of members and stakeholders for new directions. Sound familiar?

Whether you’ve got to make the hard call to dislodge an underperforming CEO; merge or restructure your organisation; invest in new tech, assets or staff; sell off or just discard part of your operation; or even completely change the mission – that’s your lot. Organisations cannot remain stuck in what they’ve always done.

You may think you’ve got compelling reasons for making changes, but being able to provide sound evidence will help you get things over the line or help keep you from making a terrible mistake.

One of the best ways to decide what to do is to consider the right data, which can help your board to answer questions such as “What should we be doing with this strategy?”, “Are we spreading ourselves too thin?”, “Should we be doing everything we’re currently doing?”.

Adele Stowe-Lindner
ICDA general manager Adele Stowe-Lindner

Just because you love some part of your operation, or you’ve always done it a certain way, should not mean that activity should be immune from scrutiny. Don’t forget that you have legal obligations to do the right thing for your organisation.

It will often be the case that an organisation needs to offload some of its work so it can focus on the things that it really should be doing, and do them better.

The executive, the board and the stakeholders have every right to ask, “On what basis are you making that decision?”

You don’t have to look far in the not-for-profit sector to find leaders who haven’t looked at the data at all. You wouldn’t just “wing it” with your finances. Why would you do it with your mission?

These are some of the questions that should be on the minds of community directors:

  • How many clients and stakeholders have you worked with in the past year? What do you know about them?
  • What impact have you really had?
  • Are you really achieving your mission?
  • Are you getting value for the effort you’re putting in?

If you can’t answer those questions, it might be time to take stock. If you’ve already asked them, congratulations – you can be confident you’re making plans on solid ground.

More Australian not-for-profits need to make more rigorous use of data. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s proof. When we opened bookings for our first “outcomes for grantseekers” webinar, more than 1000 places were snapped up in less than three hours. We scheduled another one the following week, but that booked out too.

You get the picture: there’s a lot of pent-up demand for information on how to measure what works in the community and social sector.

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