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Good Questions = Good Data

Framing Data to Tell Your Story

The reporting tool in Foundant’s Grant or Scholarship Lifecycle Manager (GLM/SLM) software allows funders to collect important data to inform and assess their grantmaking. Most any question answered on a form can be pulled into a report. Think ahead to what you would like to measure or display at the end of a funding cycle while you are building your forms to be sure that you are collecting the information you’ll need. Here are some tips for developing good forms that translate into good reports.

  1. Remember that question labels serve as column headings in reports. Instead of using a question label such as “Please describe the geography you serve, including state, city, county, and individuals served,” use a short, descriptive, question label like “Geography Served,” and include specific instructions in the instruction field below the label. (You can now make instructions pop with colored lettering!)
  2. When appropriate, use question types that require responses to be entered a specific format. When asking “Number of Families Served,” use the integer (#) question type. If you want a dollar amount, use the currency ($) question type. Instead of giving applicants a basic text box, requiring a specific format provides applicants with clarity and makes your data uniform.
  3. Break down narrative questions. If you want to be able to pull data easily into a report, make sure you develop the forms in your processes in a way that facilitates extraction. Instead of one large text area for a detailed program description, break out questions such as “Is the program new or existing?” into a separate radio button question, and leave the text area for descriptive details.
  4. Include questions that would be useful to know but that you never asked. Are there simple questions unrelated to the funding request that could help you or your nonprofit partners perform better? Questions like, “How did you hear about this opportunity?” might help you better allocate limited communications dollars.  Feedback from applicants to a question such as, “Approximately how long did this grant application take to complete?” may inspire you to streamline your forms. Use a question group for short optional formatted questions that can help you gather information about nonprofits and are easily displayed in a report.
  5. Use coding-type questions that will help you categorize grant information. A checkbox question can be used to determine simple demographic information such as “neighborhoods served,” or an integer question could be used to ask for the number of clients who participated in the planning of a neighborhood project. This allows you to sort projects based on important criteria that you can track over time.

If you have other tips on building forms for use in reporting, please share them with your peers in the Share tab of Base Camp.

About the Author

Ashley began working in the nonprofit community in Memphis, TN in 2005 and joined the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis as a program officer in 2008. In 2013 she became the Director of Grants and Initiatives, managing the foundation’s competitive grant programs. During this time, Ashley helped develop GiVE 365, which became a model for collaborative giving programs in foundations across the United States. She has been a leader in the community foundation field and served as the Chair of ProNet, previously the Council On Foundation's professional development group for community foundation program staff. Ashley is happy to continue her career with a team dedicated to supporting the philanthropic sector. Outside of work, she enjoys being outdoors, especially during bird migration along the Mississippi flyway.

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