3 Simple Tips for Sharing Your Data

In today’s nonprofit world, it isn’t enough to analyze program data and make improvements. The savvy nonprofit professional must also tell a story about that data to your staff and board, donors, volunteers and others who care about your work. Translating pages of statistics into key points that underscore the takeaways you need audiences to grasp can be daunting. But if your readers or listeners aren’t getting anything out of your graphs and charts, then what’s the point?

Ann_emeryThat’s where data visualization comes in!  Thanks to a unique and strategic partnership with Good Measure, a collaborative of funders dedicated to improving access to and the effective use of data to drive social change, Mission Capital has brought the expertise of noted data visualization expert Ann Emery to our Central Texas social sector. 

In a recent data visualization webinar series about data placemats, Ann highlighted how this tool can be used to facilitate team discussions and help make sense of data in user-friendly ways.

A data placemat is simply a large sheet that “displays thematically grouped data in the form of charts, graphs, and quotes.”[1]  Much like a placemat in real life, a data placemat “sets the table” for a rich conversation about preliminary findings with your internal team.

So, how can you use data to get the dialogue started?

  • Facilitate, don’t present. Rather than conducting a formal presentation, ask discussion questions and use your data placemat as a conversation-starter. Open-ended questions like, “What do these numbers tell you?” or “What could be the cause of trends you see?” are examples of ways to invite discussion around your preliminary findings.
  • Informal data-sharing is okay. As you think about building comfort levels around data and what it means, share data early and often. You can start by including data into conversations casually, such as share-outs, at a program team meeting or staff meeting. You can also schedule a two-hour data interpretation meeting for meatier topics.  Focus less on creating very lengthy and formal reports, and instead use data-sharing formats that lead to curious conversations about what the data is telling you.
  • Collect the right amount of data. Think about the end goal of your data collection and analysis efforts.  What does your organization have time to discuss, interpret, and make sense of?  Only collect the data you have the capacity to collect. If you find your team can’t talk about and learn from all data you’re collecting, you might have too much! Consider scaling down the amount of surveys you send per year, for instance, and/or the number of questions your survey asks.

Interested in learning more about facilitating data conversations with tools like data placemats? We invite you and your team to join us November 13 for the 2018 Data Institute to dive deeper on data visualization and learn from Ann Emery herself! Questions about the 2018 Data Institute? Contact Ann Starr, Director of Learning & Leadership, at (512) 477-5955 x282.

[1] Data Placemats: A Facilitative Technique Designed to Enhance Stakeholder Understanding of Data: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ev.20181

Related Content

The Promise We Make as a Social Sector Leader

It’s crucial to recognize the promise we make to evaluate our organization’s outcomes to deliver on our mission.

Read More

Data Institute 2018

Presented by Good Measure, the 2018 Data Institute is an innovative and highly-curated one-day learning event designed for teams of data-driven leaders from Central Texas nonprofits.

Learn More

Data-Informed Decision Making

A comprehensive data strategy goes beyond collecting one-off measurements, and can crucial to inform your organization's decision making.

Read More



Stay connected with monthly e-newsletters. Get first notice of community events, read the latest blog posts and find out who’s doing what in the social sector.