Using Your Data to Tell A Story

The word "data" has drastically different effects on people. One group loves it, eats it for breakfast, and swims through data-driven waves on top of date-driven mountains in their dreams. The other group though feels the complete opposite. This latter group may have already turned off their attention by now as a survival instinct to avoid the boredom and sheer nonsense of the dreaded "data analysis"!

For those of you who have been interested enough to read on, here are some useful tips for using your data to tell a story.

"How are you going to measure that?"

This question used to haunt me. If this question haunts you as well I hope you will join me in seeing the light at the end of the data tunnel. Without measurement, we can't have impactful, meaningful data. Sure, we can count the number of people who passed through our door or attended our event. But how impactful is that, really?

Impactful-Meaningful Data (IMD) is key to telling your story with data.

Show the linkage. How does your program/project's activities link to the anticipated or achieved outcome? Providing an easy-to-follow road map enables you to perform a better evaluation, but also assists you in telling your story. Using a logic model to outline your program/project and is the first step in program evaluation. Find free examples of logic models on our resource page.

Surveys can help you tell your story

Pre and Post surveys are useful in capturing IMD. You can measure who you are serving and also how impactful the service is. Inputting the data into an excel spreadsheet can make data analysis a little easier. With the updated Microsoft Excel you can create graphs for reporting out your outcomes. If you and your clients are tech-savvy consider using a Google Form to capture pre/post surveys. Using an online data form collection process makes it easy to translate the data for analysis by eliminating the need to manually input the data into a program. This can also reduce accidental data entry errors. Do however use caution and obtain proper releases as needed. There should even be caution in using the before described Google Forms, be sure you are compliment with any regulations that apply to your organization or industry.

Present your data with integrity

I've seen many organizations deliver outstanding keynotes and presentations to audiences at their annual dinners and fundraisers. I've seen carefully crafted and outlined graphics showcasing 75% success rates, 2/3 program completions, and impressive numbers of attendance. But I have only seen a few, a brave few who didn't stop there. I have seen a few that are curious enough, again brave enough to also highlight the failures and the challenges.

We should not overlook the challenges and perceived failures. We should embrace them, we should be curious as we examine them. At times you may find far greater value in the data that highlights what's not working over what is. Talking about the 25% failure rate, and the 1/3 of those who didn't complete a program, and the demographic who didn't attend not only shows integrity but also grit for continued growth and informed change.

Data can be a gold mine. We have seen groups use data-informed by these 3 key concepts to make huge impacts in all areas of their organizations and communities. These groups and organizations have also received local foundation, state, and even federal grants after embracing the storytelling format of data analysis. If you or your organization would like assistance in telling your story with your data contact Mezzo Solutions for a free consultation.

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