As we discussed in last week’s blog, PLC hosted a workshop on May 16th, 2017 called, ‘Giving Data a Voice: Transforming Data Into Actionable Insight Through Story’. In that blog we shared our main takeaways from the training (you can check those out HERE). In this week’s blog, we’d like to share some of the thoughts and takeaways from the workshop participants. To that end, one of the questions we asked in our survey was, ‘What one learning would you share with someone who wasn’t at this workshop?’ There were clear, common takeaways that we complied thematically below.

1. The human brain remembers stories, not facts.

We learned in the workshop that presenting a data set may not have the same impact on the reader as a story derived from that same data might. By presenting information in a story format the reader may gain a better understanding of the information we are sharing.

2. Justification and validation of our programs and services are not the reasons we should be using to collect data.

In the nonprofit sector we often feel the need to justify our existence. We feel we must show that there is a reason we are providing our services. But that can not be the driving factor in our data collection. When we’re solely seeking justification in our data analysis we may miss other data; data that could lead us in a direction with even greater impact. The justification/validation lens can blind us to other insights.

3. Consider the audience when we’re presenting data.

When we’re presenting data, we have to think about the person who is reading it. What do we want them to understand from this data? What action do we want them to take in response to reading this data? Make sure this is made clear in the data presentation before sharing it.

4. ‘So what?’ is a great question to ask ourselves.

Asking ourselves ‘so what?’ may, at first, feel a little uncomfortable. The question itself is dismissive – but that’s the point. When we’re designing data collection tools such as surveys, or creating reports based on our data, we need to understand why we’re asking each question, and why we’re sharing each bit of information. By asking ‘so what?’ it helps us to eliminate irrelevant lines of enquiry. Each question and information piece need to fulfill a clear purpose. A helpful way to figure that out is to ask ourselves ‘so what?’

5. Storytelling is an art that must be honed and perfected.

Telling stories is a proven, effective method for helping people (supporters, volunteers, funders, etc.) understand the impact our organizations have in the community. And it’s when people understand and can clearly see how we help that they want to get involved (donating, volunteering, funding, etc.). But telling a good story is not always simple. Ensuring the story is clear, relatable, enticing, impactful, and easily retold over and over, requires a great amount of time, study and effort. However, the payoffs make that work worth it.

6. Negative data is still telling a story.

It can be shocking when the data we collect does not reflect our expectations. But when we remove our expectations from the data analysis process we can gain understanding and insights into the data we do have. Maybe there’s another way of delivering our program; maybe we should focus on these other outcomes; maybe we’re not asking the right questions. Negative data is definitely trying to tell us something, and if we look at it with an open mind we might be able to see it.

We want to thank all the participants who took the time to complete the survey! Was there anything we missed? We want to know! Share it in the comments below.

Until next time,


This week’s blog was written by Tina de los Santos. Tina brings a diverse mix of nonprofit and business leadership to her role at PLC. Throughout her career she has been passionate about creating engaging learning experiences that support and inspire people’s professional and personal growth. Tina is our chief knowledge sharer and enjoys digitally connecting with other leaders in Peel to help them find great resources and learning tools.


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