Gathering your data

The most important question before collecting any data is:

  • How is this going to be useful?

Collecting data is not just about collecting information on what you want to know, but considering why you want to know it and what is the best way to get it.

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Starting from your objective, we can find out what data we need to measure our success in meeting that objective. For example:

Objective: Running information evenings throughout the year.

We’re going to run our first information evening, and have distributed invitations in multiple ways – letter drop, sent to email list, social media posts, and a spot on the local radio. We want to know what method was the most successful with our target population so we know where to put our resources. We also want to know if people found the night valuable. Evaluation is going to tell us.

Data required:

  • Numbers and demographics of attendees (so we know if we’re reaching our target audience).
  • How they heard about the information night (so we know if our invitation method was successful with the target audience).
  • If they would attend another night (so we know if the audience found it valuable).

This data could be gathered with a quick tick-box survey at the end of the night, and used to fine-tune our program’s strategy. And it’s critical that we only collect the data that we have a real use for – no one likes having their time wasted.

Data from activities

Depending on what you’re doing, you’ll have different opportunities to collect data from your activities.

Events

The example above is gathering data from an event. Depending on your event, you might be wanting to track things like:

  • Demographics
  • Number of attendees
  • Number of type of pamphlets/ flyers distributed (e.g. were people more interested in cannabis versus alcohol pamphlets?)
  • How they heard about your event
  • How many people stopped by an information booth to chat

This can be recorded on the day, put into a simple spreadsheet, and analysed.

Social media

Social media platforms have inbuilt tools to track activities, for example, Facebook pages set up as ‘business’ (this is free). These can include tracking likes, shares, comments, video views, and links clicked. For our example of an information night, part of measuring the success of sending an invitation via through social media could be tracking, on the invitation posts, how many:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments

And if you’ve created an event invitation, you can see how many people indicated they would attend.

This will give you a sense of who, and how many, people are engaging with you on social media.

You may also find our social media toolkit useful.

Surveys

Often a go-to when we talk about evaluation, survey is a relatively easy way to gather information.

Just remember that often people don’t like filling out surveys – and, depending on the information you need, writing them well can be harder than it seems.

You can start by asking yourself:

  • What need to know
  • Why you need to know it
  • How you will ask

Writing questions can be tricky, although there are many free guides available online.