No matter if you are a United Way or independent 211, 211 needs data is valuable in helping inform and set local United Way priorities, developing stronger funding proposals, and demonstrating why donors should support your work. Data is one of the most valuable assets 211s have – aside from their staff – and leveraging it correctly can identify gaps in resources leading to more informed funding proposals.
“Through statistical reports provided by iCarol export...I personally use these reports to focus on any unmet needs. This gives me the opportunity to do outreach with any agencies who may offer these services, educate them about 211 and the opportunity to list their resource/services in our database if they haven’t before. This same information also helps me advocate in community meetings when agencies are looking for grant/funding opportunities to provide a new service to fulfill any community needs.”
- Sarina Clooney, Director of United Way 211 & Resource Information, United Way of Southwest Louisiana
Practical Steps Your 211 Can Take - Going Beyond Number of Calls:
Provide relevant and contextualized reports about a specific need category that helps partners, donors, and local leaders understand the most critical needs in your community. (Example: https://www.gtcuw.org/211-call-data-highlights-growing-housing-needs/)
Make your data public so anyone can see the impact your 211 is having and what people in your community need most. You don’t need a fancy tool to do this, even posting a weekly snapshot of data to your website is valuable!
If you do use a tool like Tableau or PowerBI, consider embedding the data on your website for public use and be sure to share it with your partners. (example: https://www.helplinecenter.org/2-1-1-community-resources/data/). Include high-level totals for key data points in addition to an interactive dashboard. (example: https://211sandiego.org/data-reports/) (The National 211 Data Platform will enable any 211 to use PowerBI to create embeddable reports for local partners and websites in 2021!)
Include data points when you share stories about clients you’ve helped or innovative programs and services you deliver. For example, when posting a story to your website about an individual who contacted 211 and got help with food and housing, include a sentence about how many calls for food and housing 211 handles every year or has handled in the past month.
Consider engaging local colleges and universities to explore research projects that could benefit from 211 data or that could even focus on analyzing 211 data deeper.