Data collection and evaluation enables smart business decision-making. Business Analyst Yon Jimenez-Macuso talks about the value in good data collection, the challenges social enterprises face in evaluating data, and what motivates him in his work.
For over a decade, I have worked in nonprofit data and evaluation, first in my home country of Spain and then in the United States. Over the course of my career, I have learned that data can be a goldmine of useful information if it’s collected and analyzed properly.
Before joining REDF, I worked as the Data and Evaluation Manager at a Bay Area nonprofit that creates economic opportunity through small business ownership. I led the implementation of a new data collection, tracking, and evaluation process across five training centers. In doing so, I experienced first-hand the challenges nonprofits face in empowering staff to be data-driven and in collecting complete and accurate data. I also learned the importance of having effective business processes, robust technology systems, and people who believe in the power of data.
In my time there, I had the opportunity to attend a San Francisco Foundation Impact Measurement and Evaluation Training. I worked alongside a REDF staff member on a small group project during the training, and REDF stuck with me long after. When I saw the Business Analyst job posting last year, I applied immediately.
In my current role as a Business Analyst, I manage REDF’s data processes, internal and external reporting, and data analysis projects, and I also support our multi-year impact evaluation efforts. Data helps the social enterprises REDF supports understand what is working and what isn’t, whether that is a product line or a wrap-around service offered to their employees. Good data is an invaluable asset that can inform decision-making for an entire organization. Even though data allows social enterprises to make the best use of their often-limited resources, it is incredibly challenging to properly collect and evaluate.
A 2018 study by Nonprofit Hub revealed that 90% of nonprofits are collecting data, but 49% don’t know how the data is being collected and only 5% use data in every decision they make. For many organizations, this is the result of two common challenges: lack of resources and lack of framework. Collecting good data is a time and resource-intensive task, and it requires appropriate staffing. Once data is being collected, it is also essential that an organization has an impact framework in place to measure, evaluate, and use the data – otherwise, all that work can go to waste.
Knowing these challenges – and the key role data can play in smart business decision-making – REDF is committed to supporting our partners in their data evaluation and sharing out our findings with them. This is a key element of the hands-on, technical assistance we provide our grantees. In the future, we hope to share more of our learnings with the larger social enterprise field. This will give more organizations the tools needed to deepen their impact and strengthen their businesses.
For example, I recently worked on a project with REDF partner Conservation Corps North Bay, which employs young adults disconnected from school or work. Together, we analyzed the wage data they currently collect from past program participants to assess their program strengths. The results will allow them to adjust wrap-around service offerings to better prepare the young people they serve for stable, well-paying jobs.
Working directly with REDF’s social enterprise partners on projects like this inspires me to continue doing this work. Before joining REDF, I was unaware of the many ways employment social enterprises provide support to their employees, beyond a job. Many are providing industry certifications, transportation and housing assistance, and more. If there was one thing I wish more people understood about the impact and possibility of social enterprise, it would be this. When a consumer purchases from a social enterprise, not only are they getting a great product, but they are also supporting job training and often vital wrap-around services.
The passion and dedication of REDF’s social enterprise partners is incredible to witness. And the commitment of their employees to change their lives – not just for themselves, but also for their families and communities – motivates me each day in my work.
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