Lakeshore Report

Lakeshore Report – Turning Data into Dollars

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As many government and private groups continue to struggle with shrinking budgets, it seems that more organizations are competing for fewer dollars. Many non-profits rely on grants to keep their programs running, but applying for those funds is often a complex and time consuming process. Lakeshore reporter Sarah Holst recently spoke with an Indianapolis–based data expert who says knowing how and when to use the right statistics can be a game changer.

Emily Krauser is the Data Program Manager for the Indiana Youth Institute. She says knowing how to use data can be critical for service organizations.

“One of the main trends that’s been happening in terms of grant making over the last few years is a real focus on insuring that the programs that they fund are showing impact on the people that they serve.” Says Krauser. “Really the only way to show impact is to use numbers, to kind of prove, both to yourself as an organization and to those people who are funding you, that the actions that you’re taking, the programs that you’re running are making an impact.”

Krauser recently spoke to a group of youth services workers in Merrillville about how to use data effectively.

Krauser says data should be used to back up a general statement whenever possible. She also reminds people to explain why the numbers matter. Making comparisons can give context… such as comparing county or state data to national data. Krauser also says organizations need to use data to show their successes. Most importantly—always provide the source of the information.

“One of the most important things to do when using data is to site sources.” Says Krauser. “I know it’s really easy to just say, ‘Hey, here’s the piece of data that I found, and it’s great and it really explains what’s going on.’ But often times different sources have different takes on what the data are, and it’s really important to site where you got that so that the people on the other end can understand that you really did do your homework and do your research and you know what you’re talking about.”

Krauser’s final tip—when all else fails, consult an expert. Those who work to collect the data can often explain the information more clearly.

“Data is particularly good at showing the impact that people have on the kids that they’re serving because it is something that is translatable across different locations and across different times. So using data you can really tell a story that isn’t just about the here and now, and, ‘Here’s the story about what’s happening’, but it’s also relatable when someone might look back on it five or ten years down the road.”

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