Getting Organized: Steps to Take before Negotiating

Last Updated: September 14, 2018

You have identified data being help by a local agency that could greatly aid your organization's efforts, but what do you do next? Before you immediately ask them for access, make sure you have followed these few steps.
  1. Prepare to invest time to identify the right people and cultivate relationships. Most of our NNIP partners must obtain the official approval from the director, who can authorize the data's release, and the implicit buy-in from the data's technical caretaker who will prepare the extract. To improve the chances of acceptance, an organization must be respectful, organized, and informed.


  1. Research the federal and state regulations that pertain to the data. For those laws restricting access, one should identify an approach that will permit the agency to share data in compliance with the guidelines. For example, the nonprofit organization might need to sign a no-cost contract with the agency to be considered a legal agent of the government. Another approach is to exclude personal identifiers (e.g., names and Social Security numbers) or include only a census tract identifier on each record instead of the street address to resolve privacy concerns. NNIP’s Resource Guide to Data Governance and Security has ample resources related to the key federal regulations, namely the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governing education data and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governing health data. Additional state and local regulations might also exist that facilitate or hinder the release of data.


  1. Develop explicit internal data security procedures. Agencies are unlikely to be convinced by vague assurances that an organization will protect the confidentiality of the data. Organizations should develop a data security plan as part of their data governance structure. This plan defines who has access to data, how data will be held confidential and secured during transfer and storage, how vulnerability to attacks will be assessed, and what protocols are established in the event of a data breach or to monitor compliance and train staff. This is critical as an organization establishes its reputation for trustworthiness. Putting this in place ahead of time will bolster an organization's credibility, but each data set might require adjustments to the general procedure. Chapter 4 of NNIP’s Resource Guide offers references to assist organizations in their security planning. Download a  sample data security plan.


  1. Demonstrate that you have in-house expertise to evaluate, clean, and manipulate the data. Expertise within the receiving organization will minimize the technical assistance the agency’s data staff need. And experienced staff can analyze files with missing or imperfect data to construct sound indicators and interpret results.


  1. Figure out how sharing the data will benefit the local agency. Prepare your arguments for how sharing the data can help the agency that owns the data. Your data analysis can help the agency plan better for programs it operates, or you might be able to provide expertise it does not have in house. 


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