How We Collect Data Determines Whose Voice Is Heard

Blog

Over the last few years, our Foundation and many organizations in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors have worked to apply a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lens to many facets of our internal and external work. As part of this process, questions have emerged around the collection of demographic data, a sensitive yet essential step in prioritizing DEI.

Many of our partner organizations shared a desire to improve their internal data collection processes. However, they could find no comprehensive set of best practices or recommendations to guide the changes they hoped to make.

In an effort to begin to fill this gap in the field and to contribute to an evolving discussion about inclusive data collection, we created More Than Numbers: A Guide Toward Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Data Collection. This new resource focuses on how organizations can collect the demographic data they need to make informed decisions and reflect the true diversity of the communities they serve.

We hope that this guide will serve as a starting point to spark inquiry, conversation, disruption and, ultimately, better data collection practices within organizations.

Reviewing and improving how we collect demographic data is about more than being politically correct or asking questions in the “right” way. How we construct applications, surveys and evaluations reflects the values of our organizations. These inquiries can either unintentionally perpetuate bias and harmful stereotypes or strive to promote inclusion and equity.

How and what we collect sends a message about who counts—and who is made invisible.

Inside More Than Numbers, you will find recommendations for approaching demographic inquiry through a variety of written forms, as well as best practices and examples for collecting data in a way that ensures that historically excluded communities are appropriately represented.

Much of this guide represents a compilation of the work already happening in the field, and the entire project was a collaborative effort. We are grateful to all of our thought partners who provided wisdom, context and candid feedback so this guide could be both inclusive and practical.

Our organization is in the process of implementing the best practices in this guide, and we look forward to sharing what we learn along the way. We would love to hear what you are learning, too.

Download the guide here.

Rella Kaplowitz is a Senior Program Officer for Evaluation and Learning at the Schusterman Family Foundation.
Jasmine Laroche is a Program Associate for Evaluation and Learning at the Schusterman Family Foundation.