Using Data Visualization and Organizational Goals to Develop Actionable Insights
Data visualizations reduce huge bodies of data to single, simple insights, and the same data sources can be interpreted in many ways to produce many insights. Data can be interpreted over and over again, with old data constantly providing new insights. And different visualizations from the same data can be combined to build powerful reporting dashboards that communicate multiple metrics within one hub.
Actionable insights have the potential to guide decision-makers towards specific actions that can deliver tangible results. These insights are typically clear, specific, and relevant to the goals or challenges of the organization as a whole.
By viewing real program data through the lens of the nonprofit’s mission statement and goals, program directors can develop initiatives, strategies, or even individual steps to optimize processes, enhance client experiences, reduce costs, or increase the reach and impact of the organization. After establishing a baseline, decision-makers are able to determine what metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) would indicate success in the future.
Each nonprofit’s data, goals, and approach are unique, so we can’t tell you exactly what to do with your data. However, data analytics can make the recommendations you need for your team.
Here are some common examples of actionable insights developed using program data:
Financials: Fund Allocation by Program
Nonprofit organizations often have to project and measure their own performances through impact reports and grant reports, with particular attention paid to the financial aspects of their work. Whether an organization wants to sustain itself and its work into the future, or expand its reach by boosting fundraising efforts and bringing on more staff, financial data often tells organizations what they are achieving, and what might be within their means.
What your data is telling you: Thanks to increased grant writing and fundraising efforts, your nonprofit organization is on track to have 50% more financial resources available next year.
Action to take with this insight: Because the nonprofit will have more finances, they are in the position to expand their services. They might hire more staff, increase the number of individuals they serve, or purchase and distribute more resources to clients.
Program Participation: Increased Demand for Services
Growth trends can help us anticipate what resources and personnel a nonprofit might need in the future. If enrollment and participation in a nonprofit’s organization is growing, that is wonderful evidence to present to stakeholders and funders to ask for help before the program is overburdened and clients are left with nowhere else to turn. Trends and projections give decision makers time to gather resources at the most appropriate time: before they’re needed by the community.
What your data is telling you: Community Action Programs (CAPs) provide financial resources to individuals and families in crisis to pay for food, power, water, and more. As a community grows, its vulnerable populations will, as well. According to growth data from the past two years, one city-funded CAP is projected to have clients in need of 45% more financial support, year over year.
Action to take with this insight: This information can be shared with grant sources, nonprofit partners, city officials, and more, so the community can band together to gather more funds or, better yet, come up with holistic solutions that can uplift communities along with the city itself.
Geography: Program Participation by Location
When we try to figure out where to spend our time and money, sometimes the answer is a literal place. Understanding where your clients live and work can make your programs more accessible to those with transportation needs. Knowing which location serves the most clients can help with planning and resource allocation. Knowing where fundraising is most effective can help nonprofits target individuals who are most likely to donate.
What your data is telling you: A city-wide program supports low-cost healthcare clinics in four communities — in the east, west, north, and south quadrants of the city. The eastern clinic sees significantly fewer patients and provides fewer services than the other four, while the northern clinic sees far more patients than any other clinic in the program. Demographic data also indicates that most of the program’s residents live in the northwestern side of the city.
Action to take with this insight: Rather than spending program funds on operating an entire building with healthcare providers and staff at the less-trafficked eastern clinic, those funds could be used to support the overburdened northern clinic and operate a shuttle service from the eastern clinic’s community to the next-closest clinic.