Story By Numbers, Episode 4: DVQ Studios Designs a Beautiful, Accessible Report

Today’s Story by Numbers podcast features an interview with Emily Stoddard Furrow of DVQ Studio. DVQ is a design firm that works with nonprofit and for-profit organizations with a social purpose. They have tons of experience helping tell complex stories in ways that are accessible to members of the public, potential donors, and community stakeholders.

In this interview we focus on a report DVQ designed and wrote for Roofs to Roots, the local coalition to end homelessness in Grand Rapids, MI. The report talked about a very complex issue – the ways that the costs of housing and the costs of transportation together affect homelessness. You might want to download it for reference while listening to the interview.

The major action points Emily shared with Ruth and me are:

  1. Plan your communication at the beginning of a project. The questions you ask, and the research you do might be completely different.
  2. Think in spreads when writing a report. I love that each open page of the Housing and Transportation study explains a single concept. This makes it very easy to skim, put down, and come back to later. It took a lot of work to do this, but the results are worthwhile.
  3. Have an intent – a “call to action” – for your report. What do you want people to know or do when they read?

This interview contains so many practical tips, I can’t even summarize them all. Be sure to listen here or subscribe in iTunes to catch all future episodes.

Why Federal Funding Changes Mean You Need Evaluation

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In this video, I talk about some changes in federal funding that have affected one of my clients, as well as many other programs like Head Start. The Obama Administration is putting a greater emphasis on evaluation and accountability and that probably isn’t going to change, no matter who is President in January 2013.

This matters for small and mid-sized nonprofits even if you receive no federal or state money. Because trends trickle down, I expect that individual donors and small private and community foundations will soon be expecting a higher standard of evidence showing that programs are successful.

This is a controversial topic, with lots of unknowns and scary monsters hiding in closets. However, the positive take away is that there is time to work on your performance measurement and evaluation systems. You’re not in this alone.