Two Types of Data Collection and Why Your Nonprofit Needs Both

Two Types of Data Collection and Why Your Nonprofit Needs Both

Broadly speaking, there are two primary types of data collection: quantitative and qualitative. Organizations wishing to provide the best possible services and to engage in continuous improvement should collect and analyze both types of data.

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Two Types of Data Collection and Why Your Nonprofit Needs Both

Broadly speaking, there are two primary types of data collection: quantitative and qualitative. Organizations wishing to provide the best possible services and to engage in continuous improvement should collect and analyze both types of data.

Quantitative data is numerical in form and can be ordered, averaged, ranked, and otherwise analyzed. Questions to collect quantitative data often seek to find out how much, how often, and how many. Quantitative data also includes likert scales. Here are three examples of quantitative data from sample Pulse For Good surveys:

  1. Please mark the services you used today. 

__Shower

__Food

__Job Help

__Computer

__Clothing

__Medical

  1. On a scale from 1-5, with 1 being Not Good and 5 being Very Good, how was your visit today?

  2. How many times have you visited a rescue mission in the last month?

Qualitative data is more descriptive in nature and collects information that is not expressed with numbers. This information allows deeper insights and can reveal opinions and motives. These questions are usually open-ended and often take the form of asking how a person feels or why they did something. Here are three example of qualitative data from sample Pulse For Good surveys:

  1. What do you wish was here?

  2. What do you like best about our program?

  3. What was the reason for your visit today?

It's important that nonprofits collect both types of data for the following reasons:

  1. Surveys with only quantitative questions may miss out on key information that can only be expressed through open-ended questions. Measured results may not show a true reflection of the quality of the service being provided.

  2. Having too many qualitative questions can lead to survey fatigue. Easy-to-answer and short quantitative questions can make up the bulk of survey questions and qualitative questions can be saved for the in-depth information your nonprofit needs. 

  3. Grantors want to know and often require in grant reports quantitative information about how many services were provided. Grantors also look for evidence that a program is working and quantitative data can provide better indicators of a program's success. 

  4. Qualitative questions often lead to survey takers leaving interesting and revealing stories that may be useful for grant and donor requests and in marketing services.

  5. A good program will have both qualitative and quantitative evidence to show a program's success or its need for improvement. Sometimes there will be a mismatch between qualitative data and quantitative data. For example, survey respondents may report really enjoying a program intended to reduce stress and may say that they don't have anything they would change. Yet, quantitative data from the same survey may show that stress levels haven't decreased. This can mean program improvements are needed and the nonprofit should look at reasons for the discrepancy.

Data collection is an important part of a nonprofit's operations. Information collected through surveys and evaluation can help an organization know if they are meeting their goals and fulfilling their organization's mission. Further, the data collected can help in recruitment, marketing, and fundraising.

Because Pulse For Good recognizes the importance of both qualitative and quantitative data, their kiosks and online surveys are specially designed to include both types of questions so that your nonprofit can have a full perspective of your programs' effectiveness.