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How to Collect Quantitative Data the Easy Way

Monitoring and evaluation is important for project management and maintaining donor relations (for example by demonstrating impact).  Here's how to make data collection easy in any organisation.

Things you'll need

  • Excel
  • Graph paper, coloured pens, sticky labels and maps - depending on which method you choose

Why is Quantitative Monitoring Important?

Numbers aren't the full story, of course not. But they can be an accurate indicator of whether things are going to plan - and if not, where they need improvement.

Having the figures to hand can allow for a number of things:

  • Looking professional
  • Proving your project is making a difference, and how much of one
  • Showing where there's a need, and how big it is
  • Backing up any claims being made
  • Knowing when something isn't worth pursuing
  • Displaying trends and information visually

Sprucing up a presentation with hard numerical evidence can make the world of difference to its credibility.


Who is Responsible for Collecting Statistical Data?

First of all, in any project, there should be something against which to measure progress. These objectives should have been outlined at the very beginning, and will be what donors and stakeholders will be looking for in mid and end-of-term reports.

The important thing for making quantitative monitoring and evaluation easy, is to identify the people involved in achieving these targets. For instance:

Target: To improve access to advocacy for service users

Staff Involved: Joe Bloggs, Advocacy Manager and Jane Doe, Community Outreach Worker

How: Joe mans a drop-in centre once a week, Jane goes into the community to support people

Potentially, both Joe and Jane have the opportunity to find out:

  • How many people ask for advocacy assistance each week/month/year
  • What demand is for, i.e.: help with health care, police, homelessness, benefits etc.
  • Whether there's a gender, disability, income or other split in service users
  • The geographical spread of service demand, i.e.: where are people asking for help
  • How many cases are resolved, how many are ongoing and how many can't be fixed

Any member of staff or volunteer has the potential to help collect information about the organisation and its projects.


Making Data Collection Easy

Once the right people have been identified, and the type of information they are expected to collect has been decided, it's important to find ways of easing this collection process into their daily jobs. Lengthy forms and questionnaires take up a lot of time and cause a lot more work.

Remember: quantitative data is just about counting things.

So try a few simple methods:

  1. Tally Chart: a simple stick chart can be used in consultation rooms or out in the community to keep tally of which services people are coming in to use, or how many clients are male/female.
  2. Log Book: a tick-sheet by the telephone allows the administrator to log which services people have phoned about.
  3. Busyness Graph: a sheet of graph paper on the wall where one block equals one client. Staff can fill in how many people they've seen each day so that patterns of demand show which days/months are the busiest and how many people have been seen in total. Spice it up by giving each department a different colour.
  4. Sticker Chart: each time someone goes out to deliver a service, get them to stick a little sticker on the location they're going to. Over time this will map out the geography of demand for the organisation's services.

Data collection doesn't have to be hard work. It can even be fun.


Confidentiality in Data Collection

It's important to remember that it's the numbers that need counting, not the individual people. That may sound like the same thing, but it isn't necessary to list individual names of clients or their addresses. Just which services they use and the town they are in. It's important that nobody can identify clients by the statistics presented. That would be a breach of data protection.


Bringing Data Together to Make a Point

Organisations are constantly being asked to provide evidence of project success and need. Tally and sticker charts are the original proof of this monitoring process, but it helps to start a simple Excel database that everybody can feed into.

Once a month, schedule half a day to take the charts off the wall and input the data onto Excel. This way changes can be tracked over time and turned into pie charts and other useful visual presentations to include in reports.

By keeping the monitoring process simple, it will make the reporting and evaluation process much easier too. Even a little numerical information can go a long way.

Further information

If you think statistical data is boring, soak up a dose of inspiration at Information is Beautiful, they did a fascinating TED talk.


If you're not sure how to create a graph or perform a statistical test using Excel, the best thing to do is to head to YouTube and type in what you're looking for. Thanks to the technological revolution, you're pretty much guaranteed to find somebody who has videoed a tutorial.


There's also a Knowhow how-to: How to collect qualitative data the easy way


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Page last edited Sep 12, 2017 History

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