Posting Live From

Love Data or Get Left Behind

Alexandra Samuel Data Love Story NTEN Leading Change Summit #14LCS

Day two of NTEN’s Leading Change Summit began with a love story- how Alexandra Samuel, VP of Social Media at Vision Critical (Twitter: @awsamuel) threw words to the wind and harnessed the power of data to tell compelling stories. And, very helpfully, she shared pointers with the ballroom full of nonprofit professionals on the best ways to do the same.

We are competing for voice with companies that have incredible amounts of data


Many fear numbers and data, but do have the capacity for compelling story-telling. But fear not:  with a little advance-planning, the data can become invaluable tools for making stories more demonstrable of your organization’s impact and more relatable to donors.  And, perhaps most importantly, this lover of data wants you to overcome the paralysis that many by imposing unrealistically high data standards- and to know that it shouldn’t keep you from telling your story.


It’s important to keep in mind that in order to get our organizations attention in the media “We are compteing for voice with companies that have incredible amounts of data.”


Her message is that nonprofits can be left behind if they are not harnessing data. And the good news is that data comes from people: your supporters and activists. So include them and you’ll be better able to tell stories and to anticipate their needs.



4 key components to consider before you begin:

Design- be clear on what story you want to tell  in order to show the impact your organization is making.   Great TIPS:

-Have a clear sense of what your’re trying to prove/disprove
-Sometimes the most important finding is the “non finding”. You  may be disappointed, but may be a really useful point to share and lack of difference can be a useful insight to making the story relatable to more.


Data- look within your organization for data you already have (hint: Look at all the places in your organization (ex: email open rates, info collecting in member sign up forms)  Categories of data: Ask people, Observe people,  Follow behavior


Team- include a critic to play Devil’s Advocate, include a data gatherer and organizer, and a great data visualizer


Dissemination- Here’s Samuel’s own plan for successful social media dissemination:

1. Take core report: put it on SlideShare
2. Produce long infographics (to pin and share)- it’s  “The new executive summary” Don’t tell whole report, key findings only
3. Add to (or create!) a Pinboard on Pinterest. TIP: Pin each individually from whole report, this way you can get more leverage out of those to reprupose/ tweet out infographics
4. Outreach to conventional media for more “earned media”  (PS: They love data-focused stories!)

Additional resources:

There are  some free tools can help you like Google Correlate – see search patterns based on a data set and  DataBib which has an index of free databases available.






  • Pingback: #14LCS – NTEN’s Leading Change Summit 2014 | Business for Culture & the Arts()

  • Megan Keane

    Thanks so much for such a clear and helpful summary of Alex’s terrific talk at 14LCS! I really liked Alex’s soundbite “Infographics are the new executive report” - it’s a great reminder to make sure to have someone involved who is good at visualizing data so you can incorporate visual takeaways and shareable data into the core of your design for easy dissemination.

  • Amy DeVita

    You bet, Megan. I had another reader tell me, offline, that Alex’s presentation was one of the highlights of #14LCS for her. I love that she gave really “actionable” advice-a favorite here.