Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy. What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.
Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate. What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.
- What data is being collected? (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
- How is the data being collected? (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
- Why? Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why. (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
- So what? (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)
For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources. Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had. Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.
Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well. Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics. That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct. Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.
Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:
- Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
- Too much data. More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
- Selecting the wrong variables. A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.
- Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals. This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population. If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
- Lacking context. Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing. Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.
Not sure how comfortable you are with data? Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover. Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis. As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products. Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!
Have you ever seen beautiful charts or dashboards that make the data “pop” in the report or presentation and wondered how could you do that? At Transform Consulting Group, we have made a lot of charts and graphs to help our clients evaluate their programs and understand important information in a way that is easy to digest. We work to find the most efficient ways to assist our clients with the data that they need to make informed, timely decisions. One way to do this is staying current with data analysis and visualization software.
The data visualization software that we are crushing on these days is Tableau. It is essentially an accelerated version of “pivot tables”. If any of you are familiar with Excel, then you know pivot tables. A pivot table is a tool that we use to determine the relationship between two or more data points. For example, when we were working with TeenWorks, a college and career readiness program, to see if their students are enrolling and persisting in college, then we might want to dig deeper in understanding who the students are that are not persisting, what schools are they enrolled in, what type of school is it (public or private, 2-year or 4-year), what is their major, and what is their gender and other socioeconomic statistics.
These additional data points help tell the story of what change is occurring and how that could impact the program model, partnership development, target clients, professional development and so many other factors. Tableau helped our team answer these questions and more to better understand the relationship of our client’s program to its intended outcomes.
Recently, Transform Consulting Group used Tableau to complete a statewide needs assessment on Indiana’s youngest children ages 0-5 by pulling together data from multiple agencies and partners. The analysis resulted in the Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) help 2017 Annual Report. The intended audience for the report are policy makers who do not have a lot of time to read technical reports, but Tableau equipped out team with creating a visually-appealing report that draws attention to the key findings.
These are our top four tips of getting started with Tableau:
- Use Tableau support. There are many support options through Tableau. One option is the Tableau Community, which allows users to connect and ask or answer questions for each other. This can be a quick way to find answers to a common problem or question that users have. For example, we were having difficulty with one of our state maps and Tableau Community had a solution that we were able to implement.
- Another option is to contact a Tableau consultant through Tableau. A consultant can provide customized personal training and guidance, which might be especially helpful for a new staff person using Tableau and/or a special project (like a dashboard). The consultant won’t do the work for you but is available along the way for further questions and guidance as you complete your project.
- Organize your data. Tableau can be picky about how the original data is organized and certain charts require different data formatting. Before getting started, it is helpful to organize your data into one spreadsheet. Transform Consulting Group prefers to use Google Sheets because it allows multiple people to work in a document and view changes real time, but Excel or Numbers could also work.
- Work with a Tableau expert. Your project might be beyond the capacity (time and knowledge) of your current team, so partnering with a group or individual who has used Tableau might be a more efficient and effective solution.
If your organization needs help with analyzing and visualizing your data, contact Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. We were not asked by Tableau to write this post. This is our own opinion.
Whether you’re a seasoned grant writer or just starting out, it can be a challenge to find possible grant opportunities. In today’s information age, the internet is an incredible resource to find information on potential funders. However, not all funders who award grants have an online presence. In fact, only 10% of foundations have a website. Another useful strategy for finding possible grants is through word of mouth in your local community and region.
If you rely only on the internet and relationships for possible fuding, then your organization may be missing out on potential grant opportunities to support your fund development goals. One of our “go-to” sources is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) database. FDO is one of the services provided by Foundation Center. There is a fee to access the information in their database, but we find that it is worth it due to the amount of information that you will be able to gather, as well as the ease of searching in their database.
3 Ways That Foundation Directory Online Can Help You
- Find Possible New Funders – You may have an idea for a new project, or you might want to expand an existing part of your programming. In order to accomplish this, you need to find funders with available grant opportunities that could support your goals. The FDO search fields let you specify the subject of your project or program, your geographic area, and the population you serve (e.g. youth or veterans). For example, if you want to find funders that would support your homeless programs in Michigan, you could type in those categories to find possible funders. You can add more layers to the search to narrow the focus or remove restrictions to broaden it. You can save your search criteria each time, allowing you to come back to your results as needed.
Some private and corporate foundations, particularly larger ones, have websites with detailed information about the types of projects and programs they fund, as well as their grant application process. In these cases, it is typically best to rely on the information on funders’ websites, rather than the FDO database, since it may take some time for FDO to be updated. The Joyce Foundation is an example of a funder with a lots of detail about projects they have funded on their website. However, when foundation websites do not exist or do not contain enough information, FDO can fill in those gaps.
- Complete Prospect Research on Funders – Let’s say that you recently learned about a local or national funder, and you want to find out if they would be a good partner for your organization. You can search FDO for information about that particular funder, including the types of projects they have previously funded. You may also want to find out how much you should ask for in a grant, so you could use FDO to find information on their past grantee award amounts. FDO lists each grant made by each funder, the dollar amount of each grant, and the reipient of each grant. They also compile data in chartsand graphs, giving you quick access to summaries, along with the option to click for more detail. Pro Tip: Sometimes funders have a different legal name than the name you know. If you’re having trouble finding them by their organization name, you can do a keyword search.
- Benchmark Other Nonprofit Organizations – Nonprofits can also learn from other similar organizations in the same region or industry. FDO can help you benchmark the funding strategies of those organizations. Search for similar nonprofits by name or keyword to find out what kind of funding they have received in the past.
The process of seeking grants from private and corporate foundations often requires some level of relationship-building with staff at the foundation. Once you have identified potential funders that fit your subject area, geographic region, and population served, then you need to determine how to approach the foundation about funding your project. Many foundations note that they do not accept unsolicited grant applications. This usually means they want to have a conversation with you or receive a Letter of Inquiry from you to get an overview of your organization before you submit a proposal. This will help them determine if it is worth your time to prepare a detailed grant application or if your proposal does not match their funding goals.
FDO compiles information from many sources, including foundation websites and 990 tax forms. If you access FDO, then you do not have to conduct this research yourself. Some of the most helpful information in FDO is found on each funder’s Grantmaker Record page, and we have found some good ways to search for results.
Tips for Making the Most of Foundation Directory Online
- As you navigate FDO, it is important to remember that what you type into each search field continues to impact the records you pull up. For example, if you type “Indianapolis Colts” into the keyword field and then click on the Grantmaker Record for Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, you will not see the full information about this grantmaker. Instead, now that your “Indianapolis Colts” search pulled up the full name of this grantmaker, copy the full name and then clear that search. Next, go to the “Organization Name” field and paste or begin typing “Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program.” Once that name pops up as a choice, select it, and click search. Now, when you click on that Grantmaker Record, you will see all the details about this funder.
- Some organizations, like Central Indiana Community Foundation, both receive grants and give grants. Therefore, FDO has both a “Recipient Record” and a “Grantmaker Record” for them. Be sure you are looking at the right record in order to get the information you are seeking.
- Within the Grantmaker Record, you can filter your results to focus in on only previous grants given to organizations similar to yours, projects like yours, or programs in your geographic area. As you move from screen to screen, be sure that the tabs and filters selected are the ones you want to see.
If your nonprofit organization is on the smaller side, you may find that the costs of a subscription outweigh the benefits. You can always do your own research into prospective funders’ 990 tax forms. Check out our blog on 990s and this free resource for finding 990 forms.
Whether your nonprofit is large or small, Transform Consulting Group can help you navigate grant research and writing! Contact us today to get started.
TechSoup is transforming organizations and having a ripple effect in the non-profit world. TechSoup is dedicated to connecting nonprofits, charities, foundations, and public libraries with technology products, services, and free learning resources needed to make informed technology decisions and investments. TechSoup partners with key technology players such as Adobe, Cisco, and Microsoft to provide donated and discounted software and refurbished hardware for eligible non-profit organizations.
Through its website, TechSoup provides two types of memberships: 1) for the eligible entities identified above, and 2) for non-eligible entities. Eligible organizations are able to access free and discounted resources. Non-eligible organizations are able to access resources through TechSoup’s articles, blogs and webinars posted online. The average nonprofit saves $12,000 on technology products over the course of its TechSoup membership!
Technology is an integral part of any organization, especially in today’s Information Age. Staying current with technology allows an organization to sustain quality service and efficiency levels, while saving money. However, choosing new technologies can be overwhelming and sometimes an outside expert is needed. TechSoup has partnered with several technology consulting services to provide consultation for non-profits to assist them in making such decisions. This is yet another benefit of TechSoup!
Transform Consulting Group applauds TechSoup for its leadership in connecting non-profits with great technology resources, services and information. Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to helping organizations stay current with the latest research and best practices. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or contact Transform today to learn more!