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 In Data Resources for Nonprofits, Experts

This is my final instalment of August inspiration series, and I’d like to highlight Connect2Help211. This Indiana nonprofit focuses on connecting those in need with the local services or support they require. They recognized the value of data strategy but at the same time, lacked the resources to implement one effectively. That is, until they got a helping hand from The Information Lab’s Data School.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re struggling to use data the way you’d like to, help is out there. And sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Connect2Help211

Connect2Help211 helps victims of abuse, illness, or poverty make connections with local supports in counties across Indiana. Volunteers and staff work to help callers achieve or maintain self-sufficiency, and ultimately improve the quality of life for residents of many area communities.

The team at Connect2Help211 recognized they had uncovered a huge need for help finding human services. They received thousands of inquiries from people looking for assistance. In 2014, visitors searched their website for over 200,000 resources, including:

  • Food pantries/food banks
  • Children’s clothing and school supplies
  • Diapers
  • Baby clothes and supplies

While Connect2Help211 knew collecting data on the requests they received and the people making those requests would offer a deeper understanding of needs in their communities, they did not have the skills — or the software — to effectively develop a data strategy or analyze the mountains of statistics in front of them.

The Information Lab’s Data School

First of all, Connect2Help211 searched for a data strategy they could handle. They approached the Tableau Foundation, hoping to find a solution to their problems. But what they got was much more than they bargained for.

Andy Kriebel, head coach at The Data School at London’s Information Lab, heard about the Indiana nonprofit’s conundrum. He decided helping them implement a data strategy would make an excellent project for his students.

“We recognized that this would be a really good project to learn how to wrangle really, really messy data.”

Andy Kriebel

Kriebel gathered his students and tasked them with developing a way for the nonprofit to collect and analyze the data amassed as they continued to answer thousands of calls for help. But the coach and his team went one step further. They created a series of visualizations using data from Connect2Help211’s existing database, providing insight into:

  • Calls – how many hours were spent answering them, and what primary factors drove callers to contact them
  • Impact – what services callers looked for most and how successful the nonprofit was at connecting them to what they needed
  • Goals – what Connect2Help211 set out to achieve and how often they were meeting their targets
  • Unmet needs – which supports callers requested that the nonprofit was unable to provide, and where needs went unmet most frequently

“We’re focused on outcomes, so to be able to collect and publish the data, make it visual, it’s like gold.”

Ann Hartman, director of strategic data analysis at Connect2Help211

Needless to say, Connect2Help211 was thrilled. As a result of the work the Data School team did, they are improving their own service as well as offering their new data strategy to other nonprofits across the nation.

Need Help With Your Data Strategy?

Receiving the assistance they did from The Data School was a stroke of luck for Connect2Help211, but it’s not the only way to get help developing a data strategy. Are you part of a nonprofit hoping to make better use of your data? We can help. Get in touch with the experts at Datassist and get the help you need.

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