The benefits of data and reporting are huge. But so is the effort that goes into collecting them. In EVALUATE, you’ll find tools to support your site through the process, from determining your data collection goals to applying what you’ve uncovered.
How can you tell if your incentive is working? Data can tell you both the impact and effect of your incentive, and give you markers for how it’s progressing and where you may need to shift gears or make adaptations. Data can help you tell the story of incentives at your site to both funders and new customers. It can also help your site do better—identifying what works and what doesn’t about any aspect of your nutrition incentive program. For many of the funders supporting nutrition incentives work, including the USDA, evaluation and reporting are also required. For example, sites that are part of a GusNIP-funded nutrition incentive project all collect the same group of core metrics – both at the participant-level and firm-level – to measure the use and effects of nutrition incentives across their network.
The benefits of data and reporting are huge. But so is the effort that goes into collecting them. Even though data collection can seem intimidating, it’s not something you should dread or avoid. Obstacles can be navigated with partnerships, software, and good planning. In EVALUATE, you’ll find tools to support your program through the process, from determining your data collection goals to applying what you’ve uncovered.
Let’s start by answering a few questions that can guide what you might want to use data to learn:
- Do I know who my incentive is reaching?
- How effective is the incentive at expanding access to my site?
- Are we connecting with new shoppers, or changing purchasing behavior?
- Is there a benefit to tracking the demographics of my customers?
- What data is required by my current funders?
- What data is of interest to potential funders?
- What data is of interest to my community (partners, customers, vendors, etc)?
You don’t have to have it all figured out now. Some data points will be priorities for this year, some for further down the line. Some goals will be determined by the reporting requirements of your funders or your community, and between your own goals and these other groups’, you’ll have a list of the data points you need.
Once you’ve identified what data you want to collect, you’ll need to decide how to collect it. Sites that are part of a GusNIP-funded project will be collecting specific data using tools designed to gather the core metrics for participants and firms, but many of these tools may also be useful to any site, whether or not it is funded by GusNIP. We’ve included links to specific tools that may be particularly valuable at the farm direct site level in the resource guides below.
Some data can be gathered automatically through the technology you choose. Things like total incentives distributed and redeemed, number of transactions, and average value, can be hard wired into data collection through your EBT point of sale machine. Other data can be collected through relatively quick and painless interactions. Unique and return customers can be identified by keeping track of the last four digits of customers’ EBT card numbers, and new customers can be identified with a quick question and a daily tally at the distribution table.
Other qualitative information might be gathered through time-intensive processes like storytelling projects, one-on-one interviews, or even in-depth research studies. Before committing to time intensive surveys or interviews be sure to consider the time and social burdens on both customers and on staff who must administer and analyze results, or take time to participate in surveys. Consider how data collected in this way will be shared with both participants and other potential stakeholders. Are there partners who might support some of this labor? Is there funding you can direct towards compensating participants for their expertise?
Data collection can also be an excellent process to support partnership building, for example with universities, aligned government programs, or extension services. There are also technological options, like Metrics and FM Tracks, that can help markets keep track of data, analyze it, and create reports and graphics to share with stakeholders and customers.
Finally, once you have a story, tell it! Plan ahead for what you’ll do with the results of your collection. Report out to funders, vendors, and the community at large. Plan alongside community members to make sure that the time and effort they spend contributing to your data collection leads to a useful result for them.
In EVALUATE, you’ll find tools to collect data from both vendors and customers. You’ll also find help to set up your data collection system from templates for spreadsheets to recommendations for software. You’ll also find resources to help you ask research questions and design pilot programs that can help you to answer them. In the end, you’ll know more about the impact of your work and about how you want your program to evolve. It’s time, then, to ask yourself what will change about your program as a result of your new information. In the next section, REITERATE, we talk about how nutrition incentives programs can adjust season to season to respond to and anticipate the needs of their communities.
Resource Library Guide: EVALUATE
See our best in class resources to help you evaluate your farm direct nutrition incentive below.
Basic data collection tools for your farm direct site.
Focus groups and other ways to obtain and organize qualitative data
Site-Specific Evaluation Software
Tools for tracking data at your farm direct site.
Our stage-by-stage guides curate our library’s best resources to meet you at every stage of the nutrition incentive journey.
Learn the basics of nutrition incentives and start building a program at your farm direct site.Learn more
Take your nutrition incentive program from seed to scale and find support for day-to-day administration.Learn more
Grassroots outreach, social media strategy, and more: learn how to connect with the community and build your customer base.Learn more
How do you measure your program's results? Access our tools for data collection, management, and publication.Learn more
Turn your data into funding for new programming through reporting and storytelling.Learn more