Harnessing the Power of Data Advocacy

On any given night, there are 653,100 people in the U.S. without a roof over their heads. That’s more people than the entire population of Vermont, sleeping in uncertainty. An 11% increase from 2023. 

To put this into perspective: that 11% hike in homelessness is the sharpest rise we have seen since 2007.

A good example of this came to me last month, when HUD released their 2023 Annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count, a report that we actively contribute to. In that report, on any given night there are 653,100 people who are homeless, marking an 11% increase from last year. That provides two data points which are good, but don’t provide a meaningful way to transform the conversation. A data advocate would point out that 653,100 people are more than the total population of Vermont (645,000) and the 11% increase is the largest increase since 2007 when this study has been conducted. Add in the fact that families represented a big increase in homelessness (16%) and the narrative around homelessness changes. As we head into a political year the data points to homelessness and affordable housing as key areas to be discussed. 

Why am I telling you this? Because numbers, while impactful, can be abstract.

A true data advocate needs to make these figures hit home.

And as the data above reveals, homelessness and affordable housing will be defining issues in the coming year. Bridging this gap is where data advocacy steps in, highlighting societal challenges, championing the rights of those we serve, and advocating for more resources.

→ Let’s take a moment to truly understand what data advocacy means. It’s more than just stats and figures. It’s about turning those numbers into compelling narratives that can:

  • Stir hearts
  • Change minds
  • Shape policies

This is the essence of data advocacy – storytelling that hits home and compels change or progress.

And advocacy can come in many forms: advocating for the people you serve, advocating for more funding and resources in your industry, and advocating within your own organization.

This is something I see all the time as a data company in the human services industry: agencies we work with – across housing, behavioral health, and child and family services – are finding that utilizing data for advocacy can be transformational.  

Our partners that provide services to the Intellectual and Developmental Disability (I/DD) community are pioneering approaches here.  Collaborating with organizations like ANCOR, they utilize data to demonstrate needs and advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities. 

Their current mission? To ensure that Direct Service Professionals (DSPs), who form the foundation of service delivery, receive fair wages. 

Because the data reveals a harsh reality: with an average wage of just $14.50, DSPs experience a shocking turnover rate of 44% and a significant 77% of ANCOR’s respondents admit to refusing new referrals due to staff shortages. 

That’s just one example of how we need to use this data to drive change. People doing this vital work, providing services and care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are burning out and agencies are struggling to keep up.  These DSPs are often engaged in difficult and labor-intensive activities, providing critical care, and ensuring they are paid fairly for this work is not only the right thing to do, it enables the agencies they work for to continue the services they provide to the community, 

Securing funding is also perennially challenging, and a heartfelt narrative is no longer sufficient. It requires the power of data to support your cause. Just like our New York Health Home organizations did, using their collective data to demonstrate their impact to the state, and advocate for the value of this model.

And it’s not just about demonstrating the big picture to stakeholders outside your organization. Data advocacy plays a crucial role within your organization as well. A robust data system can help you gain efficiency, manage operations and handle compliance concerns.

At Foothold Technology, we know how to translate statistics into narratives that describe the work that your agency is doing.  Data advocacy is at the heart of what we do. It’s about making those spreadsheets speak volumes, turning raw data into real-world change. And we’re right there with you, every step of the way.

 We’re not just a data provider – we’re your companion in advocacy. 

Together, we aim to harness the power of data, transforming your organization into a more compliant and effective champion for the causes you hold dear. Regardless of the size of your organization, we focus on empowering you with the ability to leverage data to improve the lives of those you serve significantly. For over two decades, we have witnessed organizations like yours driving successful advocacy campaigns with the power of data. 

Our objective is to assist you in utilizing data to minimize risk, both within your organization and for the individuals you serve. Giving your team the ability to transform raw statistics into palpable changes, meaningful decisions, and impactful results. 

We have numerous examples of our clients using incident data to make changes on how and where services are delivered, we have organizations that are able to demonstrate to their auditors a better way to evaluate their programs, we have had organizations have better staff coordination because the data is the central meeting point. 

One area where my team and I are focused is determining how an agency can use data to reduce risk for both their clients and the organization. These data advocacy efforts are why Foothold went into business over 20 years ago and what fuels my desire to continue the great work.

The pandemic has highlighted the crutch that nonprofit organizations provide to our most vulnerable.They have done well in telling the stories, but they have not done as well using their own data to advocate for themselves. Most nonprofit groups we work with use data systems to reduce risk and keep compliant, not many use that same data to push back on auditors or engage with community stakeholders to tell a transformative story.

This can happen no matter what size organization you are. We have seen human service organizations of all sizes using their data to help drive change internally or with their community. We believe that any organization of any size can provide valuable feedback and insights to serve their community, and we partner with many agencies to do just that. You have the data, let’s work with you to help support how you can use it to advocate for your organization and the people you serve. 

That’s what we call data advocacy. 

There’s much to learn, share, and achieve in the coming months. Thank you for being our partner in making a difference, one data point at a time.