Data Diaries: Lessons and Resources from Back on My Feet


Elizabeth Manning, Vice President of Program and Evaluation at Back on My Feet, recently chatted with Travis Centers, Vice President of Community Development at RiseKit, about her organization’s goals, objectives, and challenges. A national nonprofit that combats homelessness through the power of physical activity, community support, and employment and housing resources, Back on My Feet is undergoing a strategic shift to deepen and broaden volunteer opportunities to expand its offerings and impact.

Back on My Feet is relying on data to take such an aggressive step towards the future. Elizabeth discussed the lessons she learned along the way and resources to help other organizations do the same.

TC: What lessons have you learned overcoming consistent data-related challenges?

EM: A tendency or flaw of mine is to want more data and to ask for the world from people. Five to six years ago, we had a robust intake packet for our members, and we try to track all of the interactions they have with uswhether a morning circle up, workshop, one-on-one meeting, employment, etc. When you multiply it by 40 or 50 members per staff person, we’re asking a lot. On top of that, we also would do monthly surveys around depression and well-being to get health metrics. One thing we wanted to do with health metrics was a 30, 60, and 90-day check-in, and we weren’t able to get all those data points for a number of people. We got some interesting results, but what was the ROI, and was it worth it?

We started to ask, how can we prioritize a bit better to understand the key questions we need to answer to give us insight into what’s going well, what needs to pivot, and what we could continue? By focusing on the KPIs that matter and over time, be strategic and purposeful when gathering data.

Being realistic around what data you need to have to understand your effectiveness, what data you’d like to have, and then what resources you can make available to make that data project successful.

TC: How do you approach using data to support coaching your team to achieve goals and objectives?

EM: We have some dashboards and reporting, and we utilize those as a starting point for coaching conversations and best practice sharing across our team. From a coaching and management standpoint, we have our goals broken down by chapter and quarter. For example, I oversee New York City and would look atin Salesforcehow many members are employed year to date and how that tracks against our internal goals.

One area we’re focused on understanding better is the member’s journey through our program so that we can have visibility to the overall flow of members through the program. Having this view, we will be able to understand if and when people get stuck as they are trying to progress to their goals. What are they missing? What can we develop in terms of services, resources, or partnerships to get them through that phase? I’m excited about this.

TC: What advice would you provide to other agencies trying to make their workforce program more data-driven?

EM: Listen to the data but also ask questions. I thought data would have all of the answers. It has some information in it, but I think kind of interrogating it and trying to understand why is beneficial. Sometimes that involves more data-driven questions; sometimes, it involves conversations. It’s not infallible. Know when to listen and know when to ask more.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity and is the second part of a two-part series. Read the first part here.