Collecting socio economic data

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What practical and straightforward methods do you use to collect people's socio-economic group data?

The HLF Evaluation Guidelines ask for the socio-economic groups (using the ONS categories) for visitors, volunteers and trainees.  The method for establishing a person's socio-economic category is quite complex and involves asking them several questions.  This is easier to do with volunteers or trainees who sign up to the project using an application form, but it is unrealistic to ask all these questions of general visitors to e.g. a historic site or participants in an event. 

HLF wants to know that their funding reaches a wide range of people, which is why they ask for this data.

Please can the HLF team, and other Community Forum members, suggest some tried and tested methods to gather this data in a practical way?

Thank you very much!

View Nicola Bell's profile Nicola Bell Aug 31 2017 - 11:28am
  1. Hello,

    I have the same question as Nicola and would like to know exactly how much detail I need to collect about socio-economic status for people visiting our events? The events only run for 2 hours and people drop in and out so asking them specific information about their employment status seems too much especially because a lot of the people we work with have English as a second language. Could you give an example of a question I could ask to get an appropriate response to this question?



  2. View Esther Falgate's profile Esther Falgate
    Offline | Last seen: 2 weeks 5 days ago
  3. I'd like an answer to this question too! I am planning a questionnaire to evaluate our project, but I hate having to ask people about their socio-economic background - it feels intrusive and irrelevant to the rest of the questions. Any tips would be very helpful!

  4. View Sarah-Joy Maddeaux's profile Sarah-Joy Maddeaux
    Offline | Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
  5. At HLF we encourage data collection so grantees can review, learn and improve their work.  When asking grantees to complete information about the percentages of visitors, volunteers and trainees from their projects who are from LSE groups we advise

    ·       Projects involving a one-off event, such as a temporary exhibition or festival, are not required to complete the question.

    ·       If grantees do not have the detail to hand, they may provide an approximate estimate.

    ·       The categories should be completed according to our six classes based on the NS-SEC.

    Our analysis of grantees experience of collecting this data has shown that grantees found it a useful exercise to go through as it gave them insight into the projects that they were running, and an introduction to useful evaluation activities that have helped to shape their future projects.  Projects are more likely to have ongoing relationships with volunteers and trainees so will find it easier to collect data from these groups.  However where projects have been successful in engaging and collecting data on LSE groups, a common characteristic was embedding the project in the local community.  Other successes include articulating who projects are trying to target and how they will measure their engagement, which can improve data collection.

    Methods used by HLF funded projects to collect LSE data include

    ·       Face to face surveys

    ·       Questionnaire

    ·       Admission tickets

    ·       Recording visits manually or electronically

    ·       Headcount

    ·       Postcode data

    ·       Collection of visitor feedback through exit polls and feedback from large groups

    ·       Reviews on tripadvisor and Facebook

    ·       Targeting trainee programmes to specific groups, such as long term unemployed.

    Strategies used by grantees to improve feedback completion include a message to participants that the information will not be used to market any other services to them or bombard them with emails or other communications.  This can help ease people’s fears that their information will be used for purposes other than evaluations.  Others have collected trainees’ educational and employment background through the recruitment process.  Although this is time intensive, and not applicable to all projects, it is a successful data collection technique.  Postcode data can be used to approximate individuals’ socio-economic background based on the deprivation of the area that they live.

    We do not expect grantees to collect information on every participant but would like to see a range of data from a group which are broadly representative of your wider beneficiaries.  Grantees have told us that early conversations about measuring engagement are key to ensuring mechanisms for data collection are planned from the start and embedded into programme delivery.

  6. View Hilary Leavy's profile Hilary Leavy
    Offline | Last seen: 2 weeks 4 days ago
  7. Hi Nicola and others,

    thank you for posting the question. One easy and practical way of collecting socio-economic data is using post cards. This method has been highlighted to us by a grantee. Post cards are a 'non threatening' medium of getting feedback and can be personalised for different types of events and can work well with one of events but also with activities that encourage longer term engagement of the participants.

    In a postcard you can start by asking feedback from the participants/visitors in relation to their experience, you could think these as the 'warming up' questions (3-4) and these can be followed by questions around socio-economic data. By collecting data aligned with the ONS categorisation you are then able to compare your data with national/or local area data. Post code data are particularly useful in this case as well. Here you can find a couple of examples of how these post cards may look like:… Look at page 5 of the presentation Look at page 10 of the document

    Another tool to consider is the Audience Finder, audience data collection platform developed and managed by the Audience Agency and offered for free for cultural organisations. It is worth exploring if this solution would suit your site/project as it offers standardised questions you can use to collect sociodemographic data and includes training/resources on data sampling so that you get a representative of your population sample. Here is an introductory guide to audience finder…

    I hope this information is useful,

    with best wishes,


  8. View Asimina Vergou's profile Asimina Vergou
    Offline | Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
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