4 Strategies for Building Data Capacity in the Social Sector

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With the vast amount of data available to us, organizations that can harness it effectively are at a distinct advantage. This is especially true for nonprofits, which often work with limited resources and need to maximize their impact. However, building data capacity within a social sector team can be challenging. In this article, we’ll explore four ways to add data capacity to your team and the pros and cons of each approach.

Hire an intern or junior talent and develop them

One way to build data capacity is to hire an intern or junior talent and develop them. This approach is great if your organization has a strong need for more repetitive tasks, such as data entry or basic data analysis. An intern or junior hire can be a cost-effective way to add data capacity to your team while also providing valuable work experience to someone starting their career.

However, there are some downsides to this approach. It can be hard to retain and develop junior talent appropriately, especially if your organization lacks a clear career path or training program. Additionally, an intern or junior hire may not be able to provide more advanced data analysis, which may limit your organization’s ability to make strategic decisions based on data.

Reskill existing employees

Another approach to building data capacity is to upskill or reskill existing employees. This approach requires the right employee and the right investment in training. Reskilling can be a great way to build data capacity within your team while also retaining valuable employees who are committed to your organization’s mission.

However, reskilling can be tough to balance with other responsibilities. It may be challenging to delegate old responsibilities elsewhere, but it’s especially important to do this thoughtfully to prevent stretching already hardworking employees past their limits. Additionally, finding the right training resources in the saturated market for data training can make it difficult to invest your employee’s time wisely.

Bring in experienced outside talent

Another option for building data capacity is to bring in experienced outside talent. This approach requires funding and the right match with the employee and organization. Outside talent can provide valuable expertise and help your team make strategic decisions based on data.

However, it can be hard to retain experienced talent, especially if your organization is still early in its data journey. Full-time hires with experience can be quite expensive, and it may be difficult to find the right cultural fit as well. Fractional and contract arrangements can help mitigate some of these challenges.

Expose team to volunteer data leaders

A final way to build data capacity is to expose your team to data leaders through board talent and exceptional volunteers. This approach can be helpful but isn’t a complete solution on its own. It’s likely that the amount of activity needed will quickly exceed volunteer capacity.

The right approach for your organization will depend on your specific needs and resources. At Data for Humans, we understand the unique challenges of building data capacity within a social sector team. We offer consulting services that can help you identify the right approach for your organization, develop a plan for building data capacity, and provide training and support to ensure your team is equipped to make data-driven decisions. We also offer a complimentary analyst mentoring program to help make sure your junior or reskilled talent feels supported in their role. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help establish your data team.