Change Management for Nonprofits Facing Demands for Data:
Data is a lively topic in the private and public sectors. In May of last year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that for the first time in its 47-year history grants would be awarded to researchers to investigate the value and impact of the arts using “existing, high-quality data sets.” (NEA Newsroom, May 30, 2012). To date they have awarded $240,000 to 14 projects. Discussion and research are ongoing and resources are proliferating but as technology and methodology evolve so do expectations and standards. Data sets have been (and continue to be) developed and made available to nonprofit groups, as have tools that can be applied to analyze and visualize data to support decision-making and advocacy. However, a nationwide survey of nonprofits conducted in 2012 to investigate their relationships to data uncovered a dichotomy, “…either they were doing a lot with their metrics or not much at all.” (NTEN & Idealware, The State of Nonprofit Data, 2012, p.3). Many of the data sets, research reports, and tools that I have found to support data gathering and analysis would be available to any nonprofits in the survey, which led to my thesis that the adoption of successful data strategies has less to do with the availability of these types of external resources and more to do with internal culture and process. I have investigated strategies used for agile software development and design innovation, models for strategic planning and organizational change management, and principals from leadership theory, the biology of learning and emotional intelligence to propose a framework for thinking about data that can help nonprofit organizations successfully evolve in a data-driven era without undermining the heart or the complexity of their work in the arts and culture sector.