Skip to content

Laura Quinn

Laura Quinn is the founder, Director of Partnerships and Knowledge, and former executive director of Idealware (, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides impartial research and resources to help other nonprofits make smart decisions about software. She’s been working in the sector for more than 15 years, and is a frequent speaker and writer on technology topics.

Posts by Laura Quinn

How Funders Can Support a Strong Data Technology Ecosystem

  The big idea behind the Markets for Good community is that the effective use of program results data across sectors would improve programs, make it easier to direct money to the most effective programs, and improve the lives of the vast number of people served by nonprofits.   This sounds great in theory, but […]

Read More

How Do You Know You’re Making a Difference?

    Your organization is working toward change in the world and believes it is making a real difference. But how do you measure such things? What kinds of technology systems can you use to track them?   No organization finds these questions trivial, but this challenge is particularly difficult for those with outcomes that […]

Read More

Buddha’s Advice On Program Measurement

  Maybe someday I’ll climb a Himalayan mountain to ask the monk there all of my questions about the universe, but I already know what he’ll say when I ask about program measurement. Let me save you the hike. There are two steps to effectively measure your programs and improve them based on performance:   […]

Read More

Capitalizing on a Wealth of Data: The First Steps

  We all know a wealth of useful data exists online, in various publications, or hidden away in public archives. Initiatives – often local or focused on a particular sector – have emerged over time to collect and report that data and apply the findings to particular areas of interest. But there’s a bigger story […]

Read More

Understanding the Landscape of Results Data Initiatives

  We’ve been thinking a lot about nonprofit results data at Idealware. As part of a project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve conducted more than 30 interviews, a survey, and a huge amount of research to understand both how organizations think about results data—whether that’s outcomes, outputs, evaluation data, program management data, […]

Read More

Forcing Nonprofits To Lie About Data

  Here’s a truth that’s rarely spoken: if a key funder asks a nonprofit for data it doesn’t really have, it’s standard practice for nonprofits to simply invent plausible data to fill the gaps.   On its face, this seems outrageous. As a sector, how can we ever hope to be able to effectively understand […]

Read More

What We Talk About When We Talk About Data

The world of nonprofit data is full of buzzwords and jargon that gets tossed around a lot, often indiscriminately. Some of those words have specific definitions that are subtly—and sometimes completely—different from how they’re being used, while others are vague to the extent that they become almost meaningless. What do we mean when we talk […]

Read More

Linking Outcomes Measurement with Software

Evaluating your organization’s programs is not trivial, but it’s necessary—and well within reach. Laura Quinn and Andrew Means bring theory down to shoe leather with a real-time case study that demonstrates not only how to measure nonprofit performance, but also how to incorporate the correct software tools (and use of them) throughout the decision-making process. 

Read More

In Search of Better Data about Nonprofits’ Programs

What are we really asking for when we require nonprofits to produce data on performance, effectiveness and impact? While the surface logic is clear – we need to know this information – the full context and set of assumptions surrounding the request bears closer examination. Laura Quinn, founder of Idealware, breaks it down to reveal […]

Read More