How you use data

Over the last few months, we’ve been asking you how you use data, and how we can change the Almanac to better help you use the findings in your work.

Big thanks to the 140 organisations who responded to our survey; we’ve also been talking to users and looking through queries we’ve received over the last few years to get a better idea of what your needs are. NCVO’s very own Deb James has done a brilliant job of pulling it all together.

We also commissioned the excellent Open Data Services Cooperative to look at how we handle and process the data internally, and they’ve also given us a lot to think about in terms of how we use the data publicly.

Results of the survey

The results of our survey make for interesting reading. We found that 80% of respondents used data to assess and understand need (including for inclusion on funding applications), 77% used it to help planing and decision making and 65% used it to demonstrate their impact. These figures are probably higher than we might have expected – but it’s worth noting that those responding to the survey are probably more likely to be engaged with data than charities as a whole.

In terms of the sources of data that people used, we found following:

  • 62% of respondents used local authority data
  • 61% used data from government departments
  • 41% went to survey datasets directly
  • 33% used data from infrastructure organisations

Some organisations mentioned a concern that local authority cuts meant that they were becoming less useful as sources of data.

Finally, organisations also gave reasons they found it difficult to use data within their organisation. The headline finding feels familiar – I often see it come up in surveys of this kind (like our data navigator work from a few years ago): lack of time and resources was cited as a barrier by 77% of respondents. As well as this:

  • 52% of respondents said they found it difficult to find data,
  • 45% cited poor internal data.

Positively, only 7% of respondents (again, these are data-engaged people) said that data was not valued in their organisation.

What happens now?

So we’re now moving into the next phase – delivery. Part of this is internal – we’ve putting into place some of ODSC’s recommendations. But we’ll also be starting to make some tools and data public. We’re using agile planning here, which means we’ll quickly be building and releasing things, and then changing and improving them based on feedback.

We’ll be launching the new Almanac in April, and we’ll be putting some of these principles in practice by developing new ways of using and manipulating the Almanac data.

All throughout this process we’ll be needing your thoughts and feedback. There’ll be plenty of ways to do this but the easiest is probably to email You can also find me on twitter at @kanedr.


Data privacy and security for leaders

Find out how to manage the risks of your organisation’s data management in our Annual Conference workshop AM2 ‘Data Privacy and security for leaders’.

Find out more about NCVO Annual Conference 2016


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Avatar photo David Kane was formerly NCVO’s Senior Research Officer. He discusses open data and emerging trends in the voluntary and community sector and wider civil society.

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