Consider community report cards to add urgency to your message (when they’re good)

At lunch last week, a local community activist/former non-profit leader brought “dessert”:  two locally produced report cards that aim to create a vision for community wellbeing, and to document progress toward specific, quantifiable goals.  The 2008 Children’s Report Card, a project of the Sacramento County Children’s Coalition, attempts to create a cohesive and meaningful picture of the status of children using hundreds of publicly available data points.  The Sacramento County Report Card for 2007-08, on the other hand, draws upon a far narrower set of data and seems more focused on demonstrating improvement or progress, even if the data are not be particularly meaningful when it comes to showing the state of such priority areas as transportation and public health and safety.  How important is the % of pothold service requests handled within 72 hours as a measure of public satisfaction with transportation services?

As non-profits try to bring attention to the need for funding or attention, well-researched documents like the Children’s Report Card contain useful information that could easily be incorporated into backgrounders or fact sheets.  For example, the report includes information about self-sufficiency – the income level at which a family can be sustained without relying on income supports or public assistance.   Self-sufficiency is another way of painting a picture of what it means to be working but unable to meet basic needs such as housing, food, child care, health care and transportation.

As it becomes more imperative to keep website content fresh, keep in mind report cards produced by local coalitions and governments as a potential source of credible information.  But apply your critical eye; if the data doesn’t move you, it won’t be compelling to donors or the media, either.

And by the way, the Sacramento Children’s Report Card does not appear to be available via website – which seems odd — but the report lists this contact:  sfung@communitycouncil.org.

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