Transcript Episode 131

Transcript Episode 131 – Maximize Your Impact with Data with Triana Urraca on The Prosperous Nonprofit

Stephanie Skryzowski: [00:00:00] Welcome to the prosperous nonprofit, the podcast for leaders who are building financially sustainable and impactful nonprofits and changing the world. I’m Stephanie s Kowski, a chief financial Officer and founder, and c e o of 100 Degrees Consulting. My personal mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income.

On this show, we talk to people who are leading the nonprofit sector in new, innovative, disruptive, and entrepreneurial ways, creating organizations that fuel their lives, their hearts, and their communities. Let’s dive in.

Hey, hey, welcome back to the prosperous nonprofit. Today we’re talking about data, so I’m not talking about financial data. You know, I talk a lot about that, but today we are talking about like programmatic and impact data. I. [00:01:00] And I know how important this is for literally all of you listening, because that data basically proves your model, right?

It proves that your organization is accomplishing the impact that you are setting out to achieve. However, I know how data can be really challenging, right? We’re thinking like there’s a million different spreadsheets and they’re owned by like 12 different people and they’re in different folders and people don’t respond to our surveys, and we have incomplete data, and now what do we do with it?

We just have these spreadsheets. And we don’t really, maybe we don’t do anything with it or it’s hard to make sense of it. And so my guest today, Triana Yaka. Is a data guru. She’s gonna kind of walk us through her process, her three Cs of data. And honestly, she busts a lot of myths for me in terms of thinking that data has to be complicated and expensive because basically she tells us that it has to.

To be neither. And so I’m like, oh my gosh. Every single [00:02:00] organization, every single leader listening is going to be like, all right, I need Triana and her work. I need her to come help, like simplify our data and really not cost us very much money at all. Because I say this a few times on the show and you’ll hear, I always thought that like when it comes to data analysis inside a nonprofit, this needs to mean like, A six figure salary as well as a six figure investment in some fancy systems, some fancy software.

And she’s like, no, it needs to be neither. And so before I keep going about this and all the ways that Triana blew my mind and the way that she thinks outside of the box in terms of bringing data into your organization, we’ll just get into the episode. So let me tell you a little bit about Triana. As the c e O of Data Systems simplified, Triana utilizes almost 15 years of experience working for nonprofits in data and evaluation roles to coach her clients in creating sustainable data systems and putting a strategy in place to maximize and demonstrate their impact.

[00:03:00] She also serves as a consultant director of evaluation at Reed Alliance Illiteracy, nonprofit in New York and Pennsylvania. In a previous position, she led the data management of a professional development program for hundreds of K through 12 educators across 30 states. In her work, Triana has designed automated dashboards that visualize data in real time for over 10,000 survey responses.

She’s produced data results and analysis for six figure grants from organizations such as Carnegie Corporation of New York. And the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Trina holds a BA in psychology and M P A in nonprofit management and a certificate in data visualization, all from N Y U. Just like me, shout out to N Y U.

In addition, she completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education, strategic Data Project Institute for Leadership in Analytics. Is a certified Tableau desktop specialist who, okay, there’s a lot there. But basically Triana knows her [00:04:00] data and she knows her data analysis. And like I said, I just love the way she thinks outside of the box and gives us all confidence and empowers us.

To really own and use our data without a massive investment. So without further ado, for real, this time let’s go talk to Triana.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to the prosperous nonprofit. I am excited to be here today with Triana, AKA Triana. 

Triana Urraca: Welcome. Hi everyone. 

Stephanie Skryzowski: It’s so great to have you here. So we first connected, I don’t know, maybe a year or two ago at this point, time is flying. Yeah. But I would love for you to tell us a little bit about what you do, and then maybe go into the journey that led you to what you’re doing 

Triana Urraca: today.

Great. Uh, so my name is Triana aka. And I’m the c e o of data Systems [00:05:00] simplified. And so I like to say that I bring nonprofit leaders from stress to strategic. And so we know that data can be a very high stress point for nonprofits. And so what I do is I coach them on how to. Collect, analyze, and make decisions based on data so they can improve their programs and get more funding to be able to continue the good work that they’re doing.

And so how I got to that point was I, I’ve been working in nonprofits for over 15 years. I actually started, I. Uh, and that’s professionally, but I actually started in the seventh grade as a reading tutor, working for a nonprofit that I actually work with now. And so just throughout high school and college always was working with kids or in education programs.

And then when I started to go into the professional world, I got my master’s, uh, in nonprofit management at N Y U Wagner. While I was doing all these data and program roles, I was pulled into helping out with some data, which is probably a familiar thing to a lot of nonprofit workers where there’s not really an official data [00:06:00] person or they’re already strapped.

And so you gotta kind of get pulled into that if you have any knowledge. I was actually a finance major in my master, so I was like, you know about spreadsheets, can you help us? And so I actually ended up really liking that and it was a good thing for me. Um, and so I started to move more towards those kind of like, Data evaluation research type of roles.

And one interesting thing that would happen when I was doing those is, you know, when you start a new job, you usually have the person before you, if you’re lucky, kind of walk through what the job responsibilities are. And so when they were telling me what they did, I would just be like, as soon as they were already telling me, I was like, oh, you know, you could do it this way actually, or you could kind of cut that or make that more efficient while like, I’m writing down the notes.

And so, you know, I would start off with a job that the previous person, you know, was doing like 40 to 60 hours a week to do those responsibilities. A year later I would be doing everything that they used to do in like 20 hours. And so I was able to do other things because, [00:07:00] and you know, just really expand the roles that I was in.

Because I had more time because that’s just the way that my mind works. And so about five years ago when I had the opportunity to start doing more consulting work, I started kind of helping other nonprofits do that. And um, you know, about two and a half years ago, I started to, I moved to consulting full-time.

And I’ve really enjoyed being able to kind of tap into what’s already there for nonprofits, because a lot of them think to make their data systems better, they’re gonna have to. Spend so much more money and hire a bunch of staff, and I’m like, no. With the existing resources and staff you have, if you’re able to change the way you think about your systems and how you’re.

Your people systems, I kind of say around your data you can really get a lot more time that then you can use for other things and to just be able to use the data more. ’cause a lot of times it just kind of ends up being something that you look at once a year. Um, and so that’s kind of been my journey, uh, to get to this point.

And so now the nonprofits that I work with range [00:08:00] not just education, uh, organizations, but just all different types of nonprofits. 

Stephanie Skryzowski: Oh my gosh. Every nonprofit needs you to basically like take the data we already have, save a whole bunch of time, and give us new insights without having to implement like, you know, new software that costs five figures plus.

Yeah, like, okay, everyone hired Triana agent. Okay. So tell me when we’re talking about data. I first think financial data, I’m like, okay, well I’ve got QuickBooks for that to like do what I need to do kind of. And then I have a few other spreadsheets. But I’m assuming we’re not talking about just financial data.

Tell us like what kinds of data are we talking about? What are some like use 

Triana Urraca: cases? Yeah, that’s a really good point because actually, like I mentioned, my uh, master’s is in finance, but I actually don’t work with the financial data funny enough, most of the time there’s actually, I think the thing is that there are, you know, accounting principles and [00:09:00] practices that just like really help define financial data a lot more.

And I think in a lot of ways financial data is just, More easy to standardize across organizations like mm-hmm. You can have the same spreadsheet for a food pantry as an education program, and they can have very similar, true metrics that they’re looking at. Whereas what I really work with more is the program and impact data.

And I definitely have like my finance brain in terms of numbers and the way we organize things on those, but it’s really about like, What’s the mission of your organization and how are you seeing if that mission is actually being accomplished? And so really it’s looking at, like I said, if it’s an education program, it might be like reading scores or test scores or graduation rates.

Um, and if it’s a program that is a food pantry, it might be how many people are coming in, or if it’s a job training program, how many people are employed a year or two later. So it’s things like that. Part of that is because it’s really required by grants, [00:10:00] and it’s just kind of a funny conundrum that organizations get in because they get these big grants and they’re really happy, but then they have all these reporting requirements on the grant, you know, of saying exactly how they impacted what you know.

Whether it’s surveys or just, you know, list test scores or whatever the case may be, and so they end up just adding all this work to their plate, even though the money is really helpful. Then it sort of gets offset by having to put staff members on figuring out how to report the stuff, especially if you want it to continue or you wanna get a bigger grant next time.

It just kind of, you get into this cycle where you have this pressure to report on the data. So it really is about. That most of the time is the motivation, but the really, I think the, the thing that makes me really happy is when then you’re able to take that work and use it to actually make your programs better so that you’re actually having a bigger impact.

Because I. I mean, it’s, it really is the same concept as the finances, right? Like if we’re not looking at our finances, we [00:11:00] can’t make good decisions to make things better. To say, okay, you know what, we’re gonna invest in this thing, or we’re gonna cut costs there because we realize that’s not actually getting us what we want for our goals.

And so looking at your impact, Programs is the same way where you’re like, okay, you know, we might have these three programs that are running, and if we look at the results, which one of these are actually doing well and which ones are not meeting the goals? And how can we change things so that all of our programs are meeting our goals?

And so that’s really where I think the value comes in. But it’s usually not the first place just because of the pressure from the outside, from the grant. So I try to alleviate that, but that’s kind of how I use the data. 

Stephanie Skryzowski: Hmm, that’s, yeah, I think that’s fantastic. And so something you said was interesting, like most organizations already have this data, like they’re already tracking these numbers.

Is that right? Like when you’re coming into work with a new organization, do you find that they’re, you know, they’re already tracking [00:12:00] things like you mentioned in education. Okay. They already have the test scores, or they already have like the number of people that are coming into the food pantry. Is that what you’re finding?

Like they already 

Triana Urraca: have this info. Yeah, actually, um, there are surveys and studies that have been done on this, and the majority of nonprofits do report that they’re collecting a lot of data, and I have found that when I’m working with nonprofits. But, um, you know, the same reports will tell you 97% of them wish they were using it more effectively.

So really the breakdown is, you know, you collect a lot of data. I will say yes and no in some ways because there’s usually a lot of data collection activities, but the actual rates. In which you get things back. So like we might do a survey, but we might only have 10% of the people responding. So, you know, there, there can be that with the data collection.

But yeah, really the most value that I think people get is I. Taking the existing data and figuring out how to best use it, um, and how to sometimes kind of [00:13:00] say, okay, what’s important to us and what isn’t? Because I think a lot of times there’s a pressure to just measure everything under the sun. That’s sort of like your industry measures, but it’s like I.

Each organization has their own mission. So it’s like what’s actually important to you? So sometimes it is about like cutting things of saying, okay, you know, you’re collecting all of this, but does that actually really speak to what you’re trying to accomplish? Maybe not. So maybe we can save resources, but then the things that do matter, then how are we actually using that as a feedback loop into making sure that, you know, we continue to do what we want to get that mission accomplished.


Stephanie Skryzowski: Yeah, and that’s interesting that it really sounds like it’s not just taking data from a spreadsheet and like making it pretty in graphs and things. There’s a strategy behind like the data that we’re collecting and the way that we are interpreting it and really using it to. To kind of tell a [00:14:00] story.

And so when you’re coming into a new organization, like do these organizations basically just have like one giant spreadsheet with a bunch or maybe like a million spreadsheets with a bunch of data points? Is that kind of the state of the information that you’re finding things or are there sophisticated systems in play or like what does like day one look like when you come into a new organization?

Triana Urraca: It can vary, but usually, uh, actually one of the surveys that I mentioned about half of the people will report, like reasons why they are not using data more effectively is because they can’t find it. Um, which is interesting to me and it’s. Again, something that I’ve definitely seen where even if, uh, the majority of my clients actually use Salesforce because, um, they have like a certain set of free nonprofit licenses, and so it kind of attracts people because they’re able to not really have to invest, at least in the.

Subscription. You know, they usually have to get consultants to help them set it up, but it kind of becomes attractive. But like you [00:15:00] said, then there’s a bunch of spreadsheets and everyone has their own spreadsheet with their own version of the same numbers and stuff. So yeah, that is a lot of it. And I think.

One thing that people usually jump to is, Hey, what system should we use with database? And I’m like, okay. Like I use this example where, uh, I say, you know, if you are trying to get in shape, right? And you have a elliptical that is in your corner of your bedroom and has a bunch of clothes on it, and you never actually use it, you know, if you go to a personal trainer, you’re like, you know, I have this elliptical, but I don’t think it’s working for me.

Uh, I think I should get a treadmill. What do you think they’re probably gonna be like, let’s. Focus on your habits. Mm-hmm. And your systems and how, you know, when do you work out? Do you schedule it? Like what’s your nutrition? Are you sleeping enough so that you wanna exercise? So that’s what I think of it.

And it’s like maybe when you get really fit and you realize, you know what, actually for this type of training, I do need an a, a, a treadmill. Okay. So that’s how I kind of think about data systems, where it’s like, You’re probably not using whatever you have, even if it’s a spreadsheet, you’re probably not [00:16:00] using what you have as effectively as you could be.

And so let’s work on that first. And then once you really have better systems going, you’ll be able to better evaluate your needs and pick the right system. Because if you pick a sys, a new system now, then you are kind of pick. Picking one based on who you are now. But if you’re gonna go through this transformation, you might have very different needs at the end.

So that’s why I always encourage, you know, even if it’s that spreadsheet that you have that’s, you know, let’s put all the spreadsheets in one folder, maybe. But you know, it’s really like, let’s start organizing what you already have and going from there. But yeah, usually it’s spreadsheets. I think people, I think everyone thinks that everyone else has a sophisticated database system, but they really don’t.

Stephanie Skryzowski: Oh my gosh. Okay. You just blew my mind with that analogy. I think that’s so good because what, what makes you think that a new, you’re actually gonna use a new system if you don’t use the one that you already have. Yeah. What makes you think you’re gonna use the treadmill if the elliptical is your like closet?

So I think that’s a perfect analogy because I feel like, at least in [00:17:00] my conversations, um, with nonprofit leaders, we are shying away from. Sophisticated data analysis because we’re like, well, we can’t afford the system and it’s gonna cost us, you know, five figures to get this new software. But it sounds like you’re saying like, no, that doesn’t have to be the case.

We can use data and then analyze data without investing like five or six figures into a new platform. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s huge. Okay, so we are, we’re sort of looking at what we already have. We’re organizing what we already have, and if maybe the decision is not to like invest in some big, shiny new thing, but we’re gonna use what we have to really understand our numbers better.

What does that actually look like? So what are you doing when you’re. When you’re coming in and you’re like, okay, now I’ve organized all of the data that they already have, then what happens then? What, what, yeah. What do you do? 

Triana Urraca: So I should take a step [00:18:00] back. ’cause I think one of the things that I do is like I bucket the different, um, data system steps.

Uh, and I made a little, uh, Saying the three css. So it’s collect, calculate, and communicate. Right? And so that’s like how I look at the data cycle. And so collect is a little bit about what we were talking about where, you know, it’s like how do you get the data in, how do you schedule it? How do you, you know, improve those data collection rates?

Like I mentioned, we might be doing a bunch of surveys, but is anyone answering them? Are we actually getting the data that we’re requesting in to our organization? So kind of looking at that and try to improve practices around that. And also that’s where a lot of the time sink comes. Goes in, in terms of staff running around, collecting things that they kind of may have some resentment towards because they don’t actually see it being used.

Like they know that, you know, we’re doing the survey, but nobody actually ever checks on it. Nobody ever asks us for it. Nobody uses it. We never see a report back. And so then moving into the calculate stage. Uh, you know, you can think about it as analysis, but that [00:19:00] doesn’t have a C so I changed it to calculate.

It’s really like what we’re talking about with the storage and also how you analyze the data. And I do think that people kind of. Worry a lot about very sophisticated analysis when again, it’s like if you start with your basics. And so we really look at, okay, like what are your outcomes and your goals and like what are the questions that can be answered?

And what I always think about when you’re thinking about like how to analyze and actually use the data is like decision making, like action oriented, right? Because like this isn’t about just. Analyzing it so we can publish it in our paper and never talk about it again, this is for a purpose. So really I always start with like, where are the decisions that you are making in the program and like what information would you need to make a database decision?

So like, Let’s say for example, um, if you have an education program, one of the programs that I work with is a reading tutoring, right? And so [00:20:00] we can look at the numbers of students. You know, you have to have students and tutors, right? And so one of the decisions you have to make is like, how many tutors and from where do you put in each school or each site?

And so, That’s a decision that you have to make at some point or different points throughout the program. So it’s like, okay, what information would help you make that decision? So is it about like maybe for the sites, like we would look at like, let’s say the pre-reading scores of the students that come in, like, so where are they?

You know, are they coming in at a higher level or a lower level for that particular site? So you might say like, okay, if the students that are coming in at a lower level, maybe we put the tutors with more experience at that site. To, you know, be able to help the students that need more help. So that would be an example of then you are really then gonna go in and look at that decision point would lead you to say, okay, well that means that I wanna know what are the pre-reading scores and compare that by site.

And then I also wanna know like, the years of experience of the tutors and come, you know, [00:21:00] have that grouped out somehow. Mm-hmm. So things like that where it’s like you’re not just doing an analysis just to do it just because you wanna be fancy and you know, you wanna. User statistics, uh, class that you took in college, right?

Like it’s really like, let’s look at the decisions of where are we putting resources, where are we putting time? How are we doing things? And like what information would’ve helped us? So that’s like kind of like the beginning of using data analysis. Mm-hmm. Um, and also I think that’s one example in program, but also even, um, One of the things I use is, you know, when you’re out trying to get a new program partner or you’re trying to, um, you know, report to your board or report to a funder, what questions are you being asked?

You know, what conversations are coming up, what decisions are boards making that you know, you wanna be able to give them data so that they can make a wise decision, you know, what are those? Data points that would be helpful. And so I’m always like, write down the question and then come back and like, you know, let’s think about it.

Like, if you have to give a, an answer of like, Hey, I’ve, you know, need to look into that and get [00:22:00] back to you, that’s a perfect opportunity to say how do we set up our system so that in the future I have those numbers at my fingertips when I’m in those meetings. Um, and so those are two different sources of like, how do you figure out, you work backwards for the analysis.

Stephanie Skryzowski: And I love the education example that you gave where you know, if somebody’s coming into a program that has, like with lower level entry scores, you’re gonna put somebody with, you know, more experience and then taking that one step further, okay, well how do we need to budget for that then? Okay, we know potentially this site is going to be more expensive because we’re bringing in higher, you know, more experienced staff.

And I feel like using that information is then also. A way to find efficiencies or potentially inefficiencies that are then going to impact the budget that are maybe then going to impact, you know, the way that you approach your, um, funding requests to potential funders for grants. I mean, it is like, I. I feel like that sort of the chain of [00:23:00] impact of having this information at your fingertips is, is unlimited.

And then if you’re able to be more efficient with your expenses and your funding strategy, then that means there’s more resources freed up to do more of the work that you’re doing. So that’s really interesting and I feel like. Data and like the analysis of it is not really, it sounds like this is something that nonprofits cannot afford to like not be doing.

Like this is not an extra fluffy thing for organizations who have a lot of money and like, oh, well it’s only those, you know, those like Rich or like well-resourced organizations that can afford to do this. I. This seems like every organization needs to be looking at their data in this very strategic way.

Are there, do you agree? Are there any organizations that like, oh, they don’t need to do this? 

Triana Urraca: Yeah, no, actually that’s one of the things is that I really focus on sort of those mid-level organizations. Like one of, you know, people always asked me like, what kind of organization do you work with? And I’m like, if you have a data team of like 10 [00:24:00] people, then I definitely don’t need to work with you.

You know? That’s just a different thing. Yeah. But usually the sweet spot, like people ask me about like, what’s the budget size? You know, usually it’s probably between one and 10 million, but really the way that I can know is what staff do you have for data? So it’s usually the, the organization that he either has like one more junior person doing data or most of the time.

Half a person because it’s a person who’s a program person or a finance person or something else that’s just been tasked with that as part of their job. And it’s like, it’s a really pivotal point I think for nonprofits because as you mentioned, when you’re getting grants, the higher level grants that give you more money and get you more, you know, status in terms of like, oh, okay, this.

This organization is funded by X, Y, Z, funder, higher requirements for their data. If you’re able to kind of get to that point where you can have, using what you have, make better systems, I think that is really a way [00:25:00] to leverage a, maybe a small amount of money that you have to actually invest it into getting something better.

And you know, to the point that you mentioned about the budget. And saying like, okay, this is one of the things I talk about is help data, not just be something that’s like, oh, you’re being penalized. ’cause that’s what people. Traditionally, a lot of times are afraid of data or don’t want to work with data, just like in the larger staff.

It’s because data meetings or data conversations tend to be like, all right, let’s all sit in the room and see whether we made our goals or not. And if we didn’t, we’ll see who’s in trouble for it. You know, it’s like that feeling of like, I don’t wanna go sit there and, and you know, see that this didn’t happen.

And I say like, Change those conversations into conversations where you have the opportunity to ask for resources, right? So like, if we are not meeting our goal in this area, why not? And not in an accusatory way, but in a, like, how can we change that way? And so I think part of that is being able to advocate like, oh, we need additional staff members.

Oh, we need additional, you know, supplies, we need, whatever the case is. [00:26:00] And if you’re able to go to a funder, A lot of times it could even be an existing funder that you already have a relationship with and be very specific about, okay, we need this money, but I don’t just need $10,000 just ’cause I want it.

But to say like, we’ve analyzed it and we’ve looked and we’ve seen that programs that have X, Y, Z, you know, maybe the ratio of participants to staff members or something, other information that you’ve used that you’ve said, okay, like in this area we would need more. Funding in order to be able to match that so that we can get these similar type of results, that’s gonna be a much more powerful ask because it’s based on data and that’s what funders want because they’re looking at so many different opportunities and they wanna put their money where they think they’re gonna get the best impact.

So if you show them a very clear and analyze decision of why you want this money and where you’re gonna put it, you just have a lot better chance. And that’s what I’ve heard. From, you know, partners and even myself, because I’ve been in a lot of funder meetings and you know, I loved going those because they’re the ones that really wanna know about data.

And so I’m able to just answer all these questions, but [00:27:00] they’re really interested in, so I haven’t met a funder yet who’s like, oh, I’ll just give you money. It’s fine if you know your impact, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Like they really care about it. And so like if you’re speaking that language, it’s definitely gonna help you with your, you know, fundraising.

Stephanie Skryzowski: Absolutely. So I would say that it sounds like the r o i from investing in this type of work is, uh, is pretty solid. Like if you’ve got the data to back up your organization and to back up your impact, like investing in that work is going to pay off big time.

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Is this something that like, okay, so say you come into an organization and you organize all of their data and you figure out, okay, here’s the information that we need to be looking at. Here’s the results, here’s the analysis that’s coming out of it. Is this something that you then. Go away and they don’t need you.

And then the organization internally can handle it. Or do they then need sort of ongoing management and support of their data, either from you or from somebody internally? [00:29:00] Is this basically, is this something that like, okay, we can get it all set up and then somebody internally can handle it, or do we need then ongoing management of the data to really kind of like 

Triana Urraca: keep it going?

Yeah. And that’s actually been a shift that I’ve had in my business because when I started and just what’s traditional in sort of data and evaluation is that, um, people are gonna come in and they’re going to do the work for you. Right. It’s kind of like, You know, you wouldn’t know how to deal with your data anyway, so we’re gonna come in and we’re gonna say, okay, this is how your program’s doing.

You know, we’ll do an evaluation. I think there is a time and a place for like having an external evaluator do like a one-time evaluation, but this is a little bit different. This is your ongoing, you know, kind of, um, Looking at your data and, and, and measuring your impact. Right. And so what I, when I started, that’s how I kind of started, was like, okay, I’ll just come in here and do your things for you and I’ll set up your systems for you and you know, then I can [00:30:00] leave.

But what I realized is that then people would keep coming back and keep coming back because I. Six months later, we did a strategic plan, or we started a new program, or we significantly changed what we were doing. And so now things are different and we need to update the systems. And so I started to pivot, um, even from the last time that we had first in, you know, been in contact you and I, where I was just more like, okay, what services do I offer?

Mm-hmm. And what I realized is that, When I was working with an organization, when I first worked with them, there was a lot of learning on my end where I would have to learn all about the organization and what they do to really understand their data. And I would get all this knowledge. I would help them set up their systems, and then I was done.

And I’m like, I know a lot about this organization, but I don’t know how much they know about their data. Even though a lot of times organizations would kind of say like, oh, you can train us at the end, but it’s like, okay, I could do an hour or two training, but that’s not really the same as really understanding what’s happening.

And so I started to shift more [00:31:00] towards a coaching model where I would take someone who’s kind of like a me back, you know, 15 years ago, right? That’s like. Just starting in the organization or they have a different role. They might be interested in data, but they don’t have like a lot of formal training or experience.

And for them to be able to actually do this work on their own would be a very big learning curve. And so what I’ve done is I started to coach people so that they can learn how to do it and like we’re walking through. So we’ll meet once or twice a week and you know, they’ll have different projects and I’ll talk through it with them.

Because that way then the transfer of knowledge is going from me to the organization so that when I leave, all that knowledge is there and they know more about the program and they’re more up to date too, just because they work there every day so they know what changes are happening and, and how those things could impact the data.

So I’ve actually found that to be really, um, beneficial for me. I really enjoy working with people, but then also for the staff, because I’ve had a lot of staff members who say this really helped them. Stay longer at the organization [00:32:00] because they felt valued. They felt invested in, and they weren’t as stressed.

You know, because usually these jobs are a lot of like fixing errors and asking people for information and you know, you kind of just have a lot of tension in the job because you’re trying to do something and you just don’t really have the resources to do it. And so by helping them set up systems where it doesn’t take them as much time and it makes it easier for them to get the information they need, the job becomes more appealing.

It becomes about like, Thinking a little bit more and about communication and about just like these higher level things, and it helps you see the impact of your work because if you think about it, The staff members are there because they want the mission to succeed. They want the results. And so if you’re able to help them see that that is actually happening, that’s just gonna motivate people a lot more.

And so, yeah, I’ve, wherever I can, you know, usually when I start with an organization, there is a little bit me, more of me kind of digging in and, and doing things. But I really encourage as soon as possible for them to designate a person at least part-time. [00:33:00] Just to start kind of working with me so that they can start learning with the ideal that, you know, they may wanna reach out to me whenever they need to.

It’s not like, oh, I’m not gonna see you after a certain amount of time, but that it really is something that they can do internally because that’s how you’re going to set yourself up for the long term. You know the, when you grow to a bigger organization, you’re going to need that. So start having someone doing that now who actually works there.

Stephanie Skryzowski: I love that and I think, like to me, one of the takeaways that I’m hearing is that, you know, you don’t have to have like a full-time data analyst on the team. This can be somebody that’s involved in programs with a portion of their time dedicated to data and anyone, it sounds like anyone. Can learn this, can understand the strategy, can, um, work to analyzing the data to help the organization.

And it doesn’t need to be somebody who necessarily has all of the credentials that you do. Right. But like, you know, [00:34:00] somebody that’s involved in programs and has some degree of understanding of the data can do this and work alongside you. 

Triana Urraca: Yeah. And that’s one of the things I love is this, I really like.

Talking about the data and helping people understand it, both like the participants who, uh, or the staff members who you know are using the data, but then also just like the data person and having people have more confidence. Um, and so actually have, um, I. On my YouTube channel, I have, um, different testimonial videos.

And one of them is about that because that’s a common concern where people are like, what if my staff isn’t knowledgeable about data? Like, is this gonna work? And so it’s just people talking about like, yeah, I, you know, I have people come with different backgrounds and they have, and it’s not just program people.

Um, some of them are development people or like finance and operations. Like you could be anyone because. Every data touches every part of the organization. So like whatever your background is in the organization, you can bring a sort of different lens and bring light to that. And then I’ve just done this so many times that I just see patterns.

So I have [00:35:00] things set up in a way that you could do, but again, it would take you. Maybe years to recreate and it’s like I’m just gonna come in and say, okay, here are the systems. Like I have these templates, I have these process like that I already created. So here you go. So it’s not really as hard as it might seem at first, because I’m here to make it easier for you.

Stephanie Skryzowski: I love that. I love that. I feel like that’s so empowering to so many organizations that will be listening and thinking like, oh, well my organization is so small. We’re only a million dollars. Like we can’t, this is not for us. But yes, I love just the way that you broke that down Treana and how simple this can be using existing resources that you have.

So I would love to hear if you have any examples of organizations that you’ve worked with or maybe you know, are taking this data and taking the analysis and doing something like really cool and really innovative and really bold. With this information that they now have, do you have any examples [00:36:00] that you can share with us?

Triana Urraca: I think one of the organizations that, um, I’ve worked with for many years read Alliance. I think they’re a really good example of having, you know, being a, you know, on the smaller end of organization, but really putting, investing a lot of time and energy into creating a data culture. And so we, uh, started off, uh, the organization is, uh, like a reading organization.

So they have a younger elementary students and they have, uh, teen tutors. And so we really started off with kind of seeing the main. Uh, beneficiaries, I guess, of the organization as a younger students. And so they over time realized, like just anecdotally how the teens were really getting a lot of benefit out of it.

And they would just kind of, you know, say thank you and really talk about, you know, how it impacted them. But there really wasn’t anything around that. And so I think the leadership was really advocated for helping us talk about the data and use it and really, really like investigate. Okay. [00:37:00] Like, What are all the ways that we might be impacting, um, our community where we don’t even realize it?

And so we started to use tools to measure the social and emotional learning of the teens as well. Um, and that really gave us insight into how many things that the teens. We’re getting out of it that we didn’t even realize. I mean, we did, but we didn’t have the, you know, exact information and data. We just sort of had stories.

But then looking systematically across everyone, because you know, some people are shy and so they’re not gonna, everyone’s not gonna come and tell you this story, but then actually when you sit down and, and you use these tools to measure that impact. And so that has led to them actually getting, um, more funders and partners interested in them.

And so they were able to, uh, get partnerships and funding to expand sort of team leadership programs, or they had been, uh, more informal where they had done programs where like, you know, they would have people come, you know, sort of do like career workshops or financial workshops, actually [00:38:00] did a couple of, uh, financial literacy workshops with the teens, but they would, you know, have them go into, you know, offices of board members or people associated with the organization to teach them about, you know, uh, their work and.

Uh, or like college interview prep, things like that. And so they were able to take all of this data that they were getting from the program and be able to show funders, Hey, this is something you should invest in. And so now that program has really grown. They have multiple, uh, full-time staff members that are dedicated just to working with the teens.

They’ve had so many different partnerships and we actually, um, have a youth summit now every year. Where they basically bring all the teens because of the programs in all five boroughs, they bring all the teens together to one site for one day, and they have a series of workshops all day. And they really are able to sort of network and get to know each other.

And so it’s really something that has grown over the years. And I do think having data to show the impact of those programs has really helped them kind of. Keep going [00:39:00] with it. And so it’s like almost like not a new branch in the sense that they always worked with teams, but just they were able to expand so much in the past, let’s say five years of what they’re working with.

And yeah, that’s definitely been the leadership’s dedication, but I would, I don’t think that it was necessarily a huge investment of money in terms of like creating whole new systems. And it was really using the existing staff in a more strategic way to help them kind of get there. 

Stephanie Skryzowski: I love that. I think that’s just, that’s such an amazing story because look at the impact that it had to just like, think a little bit differently about the resources that we currently have.

And um, I love that sort of outside of the box thinking that you are bringing to the table. And I just, I really love that you’re not coming in and you’re like, okay, here’s the six figure investment we need to make. You’re like, no. Let’s use what we have. Let’s think about this a little bit differently and look at the potential that there is.

I, I think that’s awesome. I, I [00:40:00] love that approach so much because, Most nonprofits I know are resource strapped, and so if you’re able to come in and shed like sort of cast new light on what we’re already doing, it just unleashes so much potential And I think, I think that’s awesome. And I think it’s just something we need more of in the sector is thinking about things in a different light.

That is beautiful. Um, one question that I like to ask all of our guests as we begin to wrap up is, what does a prosperous nonprofit look like 

Triana Urraca: to you? Yeah, so I think for me, you know, I, I focus a lot about time and when I talk about my organization and what I do and saving time, and I think for me that is because just working in nonprofits for many years, I can see that that’s a major issue, you know, in terms of people not feeling like they have enough time.

And so, For me, having a nonprofit where you can actually have the time to do [00:41:00] the things that you want to do or that you think are important by eliminating, you know, and that’s why I try to work with nonprofits to eliminate things like, you know, fixing errors or trying to track down data or ask people for things when you could just set up a system so they don’t have to give it to you.

It’s not just about saving that time just to not do those things, but it’s really about the things that you’re doing now that you’ve saved that time. And so it’s really about now having more time, like the example that I just mentioned, you know, having more time to innovate and say like, okay, how can we expand what we’re doing and create almost like a new branch of what we’re doing?

Or, or, and it doesn’t have to be something that big, but that’s how it starts with small steps. And so just having the space to do that. We’ll help you figure out better ways to have more impact with your organization. But I also think that just for the people themselves, you know, staff retention is definitely an issue with nonprofits.

You know, it’s very easy to get burned out, and so having organizations where people can take care of the mission, but they can also take care of themselves because their job [00:42:00] is not as stressful. And so for me, a prosperous nonprofit is one that where people feel like they have time to both create new things and come up with their own ideas, but also just to reflect and give themselves, you know, a pat on the back and say like, look at what we’ve done, and kind of feel that gratitude that they have for what they do.

And you know, therefore be around to kind of impart that wisdom on the next people that come in because you know, you have people that have been there for a while. So that’s what I think of when I see nonprofits, uh, that are prosperous. And also I think just for. Annual, you know, our own organizations, you know, to really look at that impact and say, oh wow, I did that.

So I think that’s something we all want for ourselves. 

Stephanie Skryzowski: Yes, you’re right. I feel like we spend so much time just like reacting and like doing all of the things, and then once we’re done doing the thing, then we’re like jumping into doing the next thing, whether it’s putting out a fire or like just, okay, gotta check the box, gotta do the next thing.

So, I love that. Um, [00:43:00] thought that a prosperous nonprofit and a pros, any prosperous organization allows time for reflection and creation and innovation and, and having that like sort of white space that I. Is often lacking. I know, like I personally am always trying to create more white space in my calendar because I feel like I’m just constantly doing and going to the next thing.

So I love that. Well, okay. I can pretty much guarantee that anybody listening is like, okay, my mind is blown. I need Triana. I need data. Where can our listeners go to find you and to learn more about the work that you do? 

Triana Urraca: Yeah, so, uh, the website is data systems and actually if you go to data systems, you can sign up for our email list and actually get the template that I use for my data meetings, which will actually show you how I create meetings that get people engaged and talking about the [00:44:00] data and just make it a little bit easier for you to set up your next meeting.

Um, and you can also follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn. Also the usernames. There are data systems simplified as 

Stephanie Skryzowski: well. Amazing. Okay, well definitely everybody go to data systems to get Trina’s free download. It looks like it’s like actual slide. You have a slide template in here?

Yeah. That is brilliant. That’s awesome. So we will absolutely link this in the show notes. Go find triana. I know she could be super impactful to your organization and we all have a lot to learn from you. So thank you so much for being here. 

Triana Urraca: I really appreciate you. Thank you so much, Stephanie. It was great speaking with you.

Stephanie Skryzowski: Hey everybody. I hope you loved this podcast episode as much as I loved recording it for you. You probably heard earlier in the show that this episode was sponsored by Grants Works, and I just wanted to pop in here and give you my 2 cents on the Federal [00:45:00] Grants Simplified Bootcamp. Patrice Davis is a genius at literally simplifying federal grants, which can be so scary and so confusing.

But she gave me access to her bootcamp so I could check it out for myself and oh my goodness. There are just six modules. They are super simple and super clear. I love how she walked us step by step through the federal websites, which are so confusing to make sure that everything is set up right on the backend to be able to apply for federal grants.

She goes over. The application, including the budget and all of the like wonky federal rules. She goes over what in the world uniform guidance means and what’s inside. Basically all of the rules that come along with federal grants. She also has this amazing federal grant application checklists and the Ultimate Grant workbook, and there’s so much info inside.

I love that I could pause. Take in the slides, take notes, and then hit play again. So I just [00:46:00] wanted you to hear directly from me that I actually went through the bootcamp myself and it was fantastic. So the link again is, and that is where you can get all of the info on this amazing bootcamp.

And don’t forget to use the discount code degrees. You know, like 100 degrees consulting degrees to get 10% off your registration. Okay, friends, this is the end of our podcast episode for today. As always, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you so much. We have our little community of loyal listeners and I really just appreciate you.

So if you wouldn’t mind sharing this podcast with a friend. I would love it. I would love if another nonprofit leader is able to listen and get all of the information that we drop in each episode. So, alright friends, I will see you next time. Bye.[00:47:00]