Dr. Robert L. Fischer, Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Robert L. Fischer

Dr. Robert L. Fischer
Associate Professor, Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and Co-Director, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development
Case Western Reserve University

Exploring Data Use in Nonprofit Organizations
Evaluation and Program Planning
Volume 97, April 2023, 102197

Organizations around the world have increasingly employed data for a variety of purposes, and nonprofit organizations are no exception. Exploring Data Use in Nonprofit Organizations, authored by Robert L. Fischer and Duncan J. Mayer, PhD candidate at the Mandel School, reviews the use of data in nonprofit organizations, including the types of data collected and accessed, the motivations for data capture, and the barriers to systematic use of data. The literature shows that nonprofit organizations capture a variety of data, including public and financial data, performance measures, program evaluation data, and volunteer information. Organizations use these with diverse motivations such as program or organizational improvement, marketing, and accountability. Prominent barriers faced by organizations include challenges in identifying meaningful information, lack of technical ability, inability to prioritize data work, as well as external influences.

The article highlights the challenges in synthesizing the available literature, with a high degree of fragmentation, including research from distinct intellectual traditions resulting in many disconnected constructs, measurements, and theories. Finally, the paper discusses challenges in the study of nonprofit data use and strives to provide guidance for future inquiry.

Robert L. Fischer is an Associate Professor at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University, where he leads a range of evaluation research studies and teaches evaluation methods to graduate students in social work and nonprofit management. He is also Co-Director of The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development. Since 2001, he has led the Center’s research on Invest in Children, a county-wide early childhood initiative that includes home visiting, children’s health, and childcare components. Dr. Fischer is also faculty director of the Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) degree program.