Data Management Plan for Grant Writers

What is a Data Management Plan?

Well, to stay in line with the theme from that past quarter we are looking at improving the structure of your nonprofit through organizational strategic planning.

Sounds fancy, right?

It really just means to create systems that will meet the needs of your nonprofit. Throughout the sessions, starting with Your Agenda for Strategic Planning 2018, we have covered why and how to set up a time for strategic planning all the way to last week on how to create evaluation plans for your projects (episode 023).

To give a little refresher our current example is a nonprofit organization named Recover with Strength that serves individuals in recovery.

Through a Needs & Strengths Assessment, they found that a major barrier was that potential beneficiaries did not have transportation to get to the sobriety services or employment opportunities. They also curated information to clearly show that there are high poverty and unemployment rates for many of the beneficiaries.

Of course, they knew that this was an issue as they interact with their beneficiaries daily, but to actually have the data is magic when it comes to sharing that information with the beneficiaries themselves, the community, on a website, through social media, and with current or potential funding sources. Having this information can be the difference between a grant being funded or rejected.

For instance, if you only ‘know’ this information but have never documented it in any way (we will get to the Data Management Plan magic in a second), then you might write in a proposal that, “a lot of beneficiaries do not have jobs and those with jobs don’t make enough money.”

That’s weak sounding at best. Whereas if you do the Assessment, which could be a simple survey or/and some small groups where you ask specific questions and track answers or a myriad of other ways to gather information, then you might write something like, “85% of our beneficiaries have wages that fall below the poverty level and 15% are unemployed.” You can see the difference and the impact that data justification provides.

After the Needs & Strengths Assessment, Recover with Strength came up with an Uber-like project to secure a vehicle where the drivers would be individuals in recovery and pick up individuals in recovery to drive them to jobs and recovery services. By securing other funding they will help subsidize the fees associated with paying the drivers. In last week’s episode, they also outlined ways to evaluate some of their project outcomes. In doing this they came up with the following:

Inputs: (What money, resources, manpower/people, and time it would take to make this project come to fruition in different ways) One vehicle and two drivers, a project manager, money to pay for the driver’s wages, gas, partnership with Recover with Strength’ service, etc.

Outputs: (Quantitative means of measurement)How many individuals in recovery are driven, how many services they attend, how many drivers of Recover with Strength are hired, how many cars are purchased, and so forth.

Outcomes: (Actual impacts/benefits/changes for beneficiaries during or after your project) Beneficiaries remain sober after one year and secure employment.

Targets: (How much change will happen?) 75% of beneficiaries remain sober after one year and 50% will secure employment.

In this article, we are now discussing how to track all that data. First, you will want to know what the needs are (through the Needs & Strengths Assessment), identify potential projects, and then evaluate those projects and refine your objectives.

Don’t get scared by the term “Data Management Plan” which sounds super academic. Basically what this means is that you need to show:

  • Why you are getting information?
  • What are your project goal(s)
  • What are your objective(s)/ data elements?
  • What information do you desire?
  • What data needs to be collected?
  • Who collects the data?
  • How will the data be collected?
  • What is the frequency of the collection of data?
  • Where will the data be stored?
  • Why will this data be useful?
  • Who will you share this data with?

That sounds like a lot, but it makes sense, right? Just think if you were to hire someone to do this job or if you assigned this role to an existing employee or peer. You could hand over this Data Management Plan and they could run this initiative.

I do have to put a disclaimer here. If you are writing a Data Management Plan for a specific grant, you may have to include additional information or use different verbiage. This is not a one-size-fits-all template. Please make sure you read the requirements of the grants to know exactly what they specifically want. But if you do have this Data Management Plan developed and tweak it for each project or grant, you will be way ahead of the game.

Furthermore, if a funding source has not requested this (and allows for attachments) you can include this Data Management Plan for your project. The thing is, if they didn’t ask for it, most people won’t include it. By including a Data Management Plan you will increase your competitiveness for funding as it shows you have procedures in place for getting, tracking, and seeing results which will markedly increase your chances of reaching goals. Funding sources like that. They want to give money to nonprofits that will actually reach the goals they said they were going to reach.

Click here to get the FREE Downloadable Data Management Plan Template!

The first question to ask is, “Why are you getting the information?”

Through your Needs & Strengths Assessment, you detailed that “85% of beneficiaries have wages that fall below the poverty level and 15% are unemployed.” Furthermore, you identified that “90% have no transportation to attend your services, and that 85% would attend services if they had transportation.” That is why you are developing an Uber-like project.

Goals could be: “To reduce unemployment by providing direct jobs and transportation to jobs and services. To promote sobriety by creating access to services.”

Your objective: To develop a transportation model that employs two beneficiaries while providing transportation for 50 beneficiaries to 5,000 services per year.

Sound like a lot? That would account for basically two services per week for each individual over a period of 52 weeks or one year. In any case, this is just an example, but you can see how specific this is.

What information do you desire? You want to know specifically, how many beneficiaries are employed, how many individuals are served, if they increase their employment, and how many services they attend.
Scroll the table Left – Right to view

Data Elements


What will be collected Who collects the data How will the data be collected Frequency of collection Where will the data be stored Why will it be useful Who will you share the data with
To develop a transportation model that employs two beneficiaries while providing transportation for 50 beneficiaries to 5,000 services per year. To develop a transportation model that employs two beneficiaries while providing transportation for 50 beneficiaries to 5,000 services per year.
How many drivers are hired?How many beneficiaries are servedHow many services beneficiaries access; employment services (jobs, interviews, resume building skills, etc.) and recovery services (AA/NA meetings, counseling, case management sessions, etc.)
Project Manager


Drivers / Facilitators for Services / Individuals and Project Manager

Through hiring individuals / organizational chart

Through a log-in sheet to be kept by all drivers

Through a log-in sheet to be kept by all drivers and by a log-in sheet kept by all Facilitators / Individuals and by the Project Manager at monthly case management sessions

Monthly to check on the employed status

Drivers deliver charts to the Project Manager weekly

Individuals give charts to the Project Manager at monthly case management sessions.

Human Resources management files and given to the Project Manager who keeps it on online software.

Online software

To establish the number of beneficiaries employed, beneficiaries served, and the access beneficiaries served. Ultimately, this is useful for tracking progress towards the goal of increasing employment and helping individuals maintain sobriety. This information will be shared with the beneficiaries, on our website and social media, with other partners as a case study example, and with funding sources.

Scroll the table Left – Right to view

There are other questions you can add to make a more detailed Data Management Plan, such as, how long will the data be kept, what metadata will be collected, and on and on. But this Data Management Plan that we discussed (and the downloadable template) offers a basic way forward for most of your internal projects and for a number of grants or solicitations.

As I stated before, many, if not most, nonprofits do not even develop one for each of their projects so you will be ahead of the curve – and competition – by implementing this simple approach.

Good luck!

Click here to get the FREE Downloadable Data Management Plan Template!

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