Data maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data.

Since 2015 we’ve worked nationally and internationally to build a framework – the data maturity framework – to help understand the journey and assess where improvements can be made

The framework identifies five stages of maturity (Unaware, Emerging, Learning, Developing and Mastering) and seven key themes (Uses, Analysis, Data,Tools, Leadership, Culture and Skills). This framework is central to most of our capacity building work with organisations and is the basis for our data maturity self assessment tool. See also the research we’ve published in this field.

What do we mean by data?

When we say 'data' we have a broad definition. We include all the types of information your organisation collects, stores, analyses, and uses. It can be recorded in many formats: numbers, text, images, video, maps. For example it might include:

  • information about the people you serve (i.e. beneficiaries, clients, service users, customers)

  • which services they receive/or activities they engage with

  • how you engage with the people you serve and other stakeholders

  • financial information (costs, income)

  • details of staff, volunteers, and contractors

  • customer feedback/satisfaction

  • outcomes/impact measures

  • information about population needs/the environment, held internally or externally (e.g.health services, government, academics)

  • monitoring and evaluation

  • performance indicators

And the list could go on….

What is a data maturity framework or model?

Essentially this is a structure to describe stages of progress along the journey towards data maturity. In 2015-6 we researched the concept of data maturity to see what models and frameworks already existed. There were hundreds of them! Read our report A Review of Data Maturity Models.

Almost all were aimed at large corporate businesses, many very technically and analytically focused, none seemed relevant to the not-for-profit sector. So, we and our partners DataKind UK set about developing our own framework, one that described data maturity in a language and context our sector could relate to.

Our framework describes five stages of maturity (Unaware, Emerging, Learning, Developing or Mastering) and seven key themes that are crucial for success (Uses, Data, Analysis, Leadership, Culture, Tools, and Skills). It’s been updated a few times since then, here’s the latest (Sept 2019) published version of the Data Orchard Data Maturity Framework.


Data Orchard first started thinking about how organisations become data savvy back in 2015. We were developing our theory of change and faced with the challenge of how to measure our impact i.e. how to measure whether an organisation has made progress in their data capabilities as a result of our interventions.

In 2016 we were approached by national charity DataKind UK who were interested in finding out how they could assess the ‘readiness’ of charities for data science. The two organisations partnered up and led some ground-breaking national research about data in the non-profit sector. The project, called ‘Data Evolution’, resulted in the 2017 publication of a report and a first version of the data maturity framework for understanding what ‘good’ and ‘great’ looks like when it comes to organisations and data.

In 2018-19 we continued to develop our prototype tool for assessing and measuring organisational data maturity with charities in England and Wales. This was partly about testing models of intervention and whether there was any measurable long term impact following different types. It was also about exploring whether the tool could be made into a self-assessment tool and offer benchmarking capabilities. We’re pleased to say the early indications from our trials suggest the answer is yes and so we’ve gone ahead and built our first online self-assessment tool.

How we developed the data maturity framework and self assessment tool

Pilot phase – Data Evolution Project


2016 – national survey of 200 charities and social enterprises to get an indicative picture of the state of data maturity in the not-for-profit sector.

2 workshops about data maturity with 56 leaders and people in data roles not-for-profit sector held in London and the West Midlands.

In-depth data and analytics assessments involving face to face and online interviews with 47 people from 12 organisations. We selected as diverse a range of organisations as possible (by turnover, employee numbers, type of activity, geographic reach)

As part of the research in 2016 Data Orchard created an initial set of questions and a prototype tool scoring tool for measuring and benchmarking data maturity. During the time the Data Evolution project website was live (May 2016 until August 2019) there were 6,457 visitors to the site. The summary report and first version of the data maturity framework was downloaded 976 times and was used by non-profit sector organisations such as The International Red Cross, NCVO, Parkinson’s UK, as well as by some in other sectors: Welsh Audit Office, The GLA, Scotland’s Rural College.

Research and development phase – Data Evolution Plus Project

In September 2017, with some support from a ‘sector advancement’ grant from the Stanford Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society, we had an opportunity to improve, test, and redevelop it into an online data maturity self assessment tool.

We redesigned the data maturity assessment to: make questions more accessible and user friendly to non-technical audiences; tighten up theme areas that are difficult to assess (notably Uses, Tools, and Skills); and to ensure it aligned with new Data Protection GDPR legislation which came into effect in 2018. We user-tested these questions as an online assessment with 51 people from four different charities in England and Wales, six of the assessments were observed live, the rest we had follow up feedback from either a representative or as a group. Two of the organisations (staff and trustees) also completed a follow up assessment 12 months later.

We were fortunate to also benefit from the learning and experience of a number of organisations who took our initial data maturity framework and applied it in different contexts. These include DigitalC in the United States who tested the tool with over 150 organisations in Cleveland, and the team at Parkinson’s UK who did some repeat data maturity assessments. Alongside this we were also pleased to share learning and experience on our respective journeys with the team at NESTA who were researching and developing a data maturity framework and tool for local authorities at the same time.

In September 2018 we successfully secured the additional funding we needed to get a free self assessment tool available online. Thanks to a grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and another from CAST towards user testing.We were finally able to launch the tool live online in September 2019.