The cycle of good impact practice: Collect and manage data

How can you collect and manage high-quality data?

We recommend focusing on five types of data in your impact practice. Some of these data types should be collected routinely from your service users and used to regularly monitor what is happening in your programme or service. This includes:

  • User data – often collected when an individual applies to take part in a programme or service via a sign-up or registration form. You may ask someone their age, for example, to assess their suitability.
  • Engagement data – often collected on an ongoing basis, for example, by tracking visits to an online resource or recording attendance at events. If you host a telephone helpline, it could include the number and duration of calls.
  • Feedback data – this can be captured via social media or through surveys. You may have an instant feedback mechanism for a particular service, where people rate their interaction immediately afterwards.

The remaining two types of data should be collected less frequently:

  • Outcomes data – often collected via surveys but may also be collected via interviews, focus groups and observations. Ideally this is collected over time to understand change and, where possible, before and after participation in your programme or service.
  • Impact data – collected in exceptional circumstances, this supports understanding of the long-term difference you make through your work. It is collected through high-quality evaluation methods when enough time has passed and ideally using a comparison group. Not all services and programmes need to collect this data.

Managing your data

If you’re currently using paper or spreadsheet-based approaches to storing your data, you may want to consider moving to an integrated data management system. A good system can help with efficiencies and accuracy with data entry, store sensitive data securely in one place, and ensure data is easy to access and work with.

For more information, read our guide to choosing an electronic case management system for your organisation.

The remaining pages in this section support you to think through which data collection approaches are best for your current needs and provide guidance on how to conduct surveys, interviews, focus groups, case studies, creative methods and observations.

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Do

The cycle of good impact practice defines what impact practice is and articulates a clear path to success. It follows a four-step cycle. This page is part of Do, the second step in the cycle.

Other resources from this step in the cycle

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This webpage has been adapted from the Inspiring Impact programme, which ran from 2011 until early 2022 and supported voluntary organisations to improve their impact practice. More information about the Inspiring Impact programme.

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