Using creativity, patience, and inspiration you can start to sort through the mountain of your data to bring out meaningful and compelling data-driven narratives. 

Over the last 10 years, the HomeKeeper team has been gathering data from the field to further sector research and articulate the impressive outcomes of shared-equity homeownership programs. We’ve also been inspiring program staff at housing organizations to become more data-driven and become better story tellers.  Chances are, you have amassed quite of bit of program data, and have only shared out a small fraction with your stakeholders. These ten steps will help you dig into your data and find the stories you want to tell to advance your mission.

Step 1 – Standardize Data Collection

The first step to better data-driven stories is standardizing data collection by implementing systematic data collection procedures. Start by collecting the same documents for every file and ensuring that the same data from those documents is stored in the same way every time.

To help ensure accurate and consistent data collection, consider using data collection checklists for program applications, county records, lender appraisals, underwriting documents, closing statements, monitoring or compliance logs, or exit surveys. Check out our free data collection checklist for homeownership or housing counseling programs.

Step 2 – Find new insights in old data

Start to practice drawing connections between seemingly unrelated data. Think about how you might connect applicant demographics, resale performance, participant satisfaction, or property portfolio characteristics. You could start telling the story of how race correlates to resale, how much wealth is gained on average by single parent households while in your program, or show the mortgage default rate of your program during times of crisis vs similar homes in your area. Even a data point as simple as date of birth can tell you the number of seniors you’ve served, the % of households with school-age children, and the median age of your homebuyers.

Step 3 – Clarify Your Audience: Who do you message to the most?

Identify who your audience is by answering this question for your organization: who do you message to the most? Is it your current funders? Potential funders? Policy makers, board members, applicants, partners, opponents, or someone else?  Try to get beyond just one message for the general public and your stories will resonate more.

Step 4 – What do they want to know?

You want your data and your story to be relevant to your audience. Think about each of your stakeholders. Put yourself in their shoes and start to ask the that are important to them. Is your board interested in whether-or-not your resale formula is working? Do your funders want to see that you are keeping homes affordable? Do your program staff need to see whether-or-not you are serving your intended audience? Do you want to show your opponents that your owners are building wealth?

Step 5 – What stories are the most compelling?

A compelling story moves people to action. What action do you want stakeholders to take? What type of story would move the needle? Do you want to show how your organization is furthering affordable homeownership, creating sector leaders, or supporting economic mobility? Are you impacting the city, the state, the sector? Could you show how you’re addressing racial inequality, preserving culture, or mitigating gentrification?

Step 6 – What Public Data Can You Use?

Using public data can help put your story in context. What are some public sources you can use? You could reference Newspapers, Craigslist rents, Zillow home prices, Enterprise Opportunity 360 Reports, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data, HUD 9902 data, or the US Census. You can also use the HomeKeeper National Data Hub. If you’re a participating member you can use the dashboards from Hub to compare your data to national data from similar programs.

Step 7 – Add a Graphic

Visuals help you tell the story and add meaning to your data, You can create your own graphics for free. Programs like, Canva, Miro, and even Word can help you create compelling graphics. Want to take it to the next level? Tableau and Salesforce dashboards can help you create visual representations of your data that update in real time! If you’re just getting started, check out our free worksheet on creating dashboards.

Step 8 – Add a personal touch

You may be telling great stories using your data, but no one can tell their story better than the clients themselves. Using reviews, quotes, and interviews from your participants puts a face to your story and brings it to life. Celebrate your 300th homeowner or connect your donors to their impact.

Step 9 – Create a Plan to Spread the Word

Now that you have a compelling, rich, data-driven story to tell, how will you get your message out? Include it in your newsletters, annual reports, and blogs. Add interactive data sets to an easy to access place on your website, and post to social media. Set up interviews with newspapers and podcasts. Report to your board. And don’t forget to get out there and educate your legislators.

Step 10 – Reality Check

Now, that you have a direction, what data do you need, and where will you get it? Update your applications, develop and document procedures and train your staff.