News: Data, Research & Evaluation

New NCAN Brief Examines Members’ Data Practices

Monday, August 12, 2019  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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Which data are NCAN member programs collecting?
How do programs use those data?
With whom do programs share the data they collect?
How do programs manage and store their data?
What are some resources that organizations can use to assess their data platform needs?

These are just a few of the questions answered by “Data Usage in College Access and Success: New Insights from the Field,” a recently released brief containing survey data from NCAN member organizations.

Although data usage has advanced substantially among NCAN member programs in recent years, it can still be difficult to find information about what other programs are doing in this area. This brief fills in some of those gaps.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Respondents are satisfied with their organization’s data software; nearly 60% reported a 4 or 5 on a 5-point satisfaction scale, but there is substantial opportunity to improve the data platform experience in some cases because nearly 20% reported a 1 or 2 on this scale.

  • 50% of respondents are using client relationship management (CRM) platforms (e.g., Salesforce) capturing and analyzing their data, which is more than double the percentage who reported doing so in 2014 (23%).

  • Program managers (83%), executive directors (72%), and advisers top the list of direct users of program data. About half of respondents indicated that their boards of directors or trustees are also primary users of the data.

  • Organizations, unsurprisingly, most often share their data with funders; 72% of respondents indicated sharing their data with current and/or prospective funders, although this figure is down from 86% in 2014. After funders, there is a steep drop-off with no other group mentioned by more than half of respondents.

  • 80% of respondents indicated their use of data for program improvement has gotten better in the past two years; 16% said it had stayed the same.

Other items in the survey address programs’ level of comfort with using data, examine the Common Measures that programs collect most frequently, and describe how programs would ideally use and benefit from the data they collect.

The brief concludes with a list of data platform resources.

More than five years ago, NCAN released a similar brief on data usage and platforms, and it’s clear that in the intervening time period members have advanced in this area. Although both surveys use a convenience sample that is not necessarily representative of the entire NCAN membership, the samples themselves are comparable and demonstrate sizable shifts in practice and changes in attitude.

Members hoping to gain more insight around their peers’ data-related platforms and practices should consult the brief and also feel free to provide feedback to Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation, at

(Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash)