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Soup Up Your Annual Reports with Calculator Soup

[guest post by Cindy Olney, OERC]

Summer is annual report time for our organization. Sometimes when I’m putting together my bulleted list of accomplishments for those reports, I feel as though our major wins get lost in the narrative. So I recently turned to an online calculator to help me create better metrics to talk about our center’s annual wins.

One of our objectives for the year was to increase participation in our evaluation training program. We developed new webinars based on our users’ feedback and also increased promotion of our training opportunities. The efforts paid off: training session attendance increased from 291 participants the previous year to 651 this year. Now that is a notable increase, but the numbers sort of disappear into the paragraph, don’t they? So I decided to add a metric to draw attention to this finding: Our participation rate increased 124% over last year’s attendance. Isn’t “percent increase” a simpler and more eye-catching way to express the same accomplishment?

Doing this extra analysis seems simple, but it takes time and gives me angst because it usually requires manual calculation. First I have to look up the formula somewhere. Then I have to calculate the statistic. Then I calculate it again, because I don’t trust myself. Then I calculate it again out of pure obsessiveness.

That’s why I love online calculators. Once I find one I like and test it for accuracy, I bookmark it for future use. From then on, I let the calculator do the computation because it is infinitely more reliable than I am when it comes to running numbers.

One of my favorite sites for online calculators is Calculator Soup, because it has so many of them. You may not ever use 90% of its calculators, but who knows when you might need to compute someone’s age from a birth date or convert days to hours. The calculators also show you the exact steps in their calculations. This allows you to check their work. You also can find formulas that you then can apply in an Excel spreadsheet.

One word of advice: test a calculator for accuracy before adopting it. I always test a new calculator to be sure the designers knew what they were doing. For Calculator Soup, I can vouch for the percent change and the mean/median/mode calculator. If I use any others at that site, I’ll test them as well. I’ll create an easy problem that I can solve manually and make sure my result matches the calculator’s.

If you want to see what Calculator Soup has to offer, check out their calculator index here.

PubMed for Librarians: 5 Online Classes

The National Library of Medicine Training Center will be offering PubMed® for Librarians (PML) in December 2015. PML is a series of five, independent, online classes. Each class meets online for 90 minutes and is worth 1.5 MLA CE credits. And, the best part is that all classes are completely FREE!

 

Follow the links below to read the descriptions and register for the sessions that interest you.

 

PubMed for Librarians: Introduction to PubMed – December 7, 2015

http://nnlm.gov/ntcc/classes/class_details.html?class_id=519

 

PubMed for Librarians: MeSH – December 8, 2015

http://nnlm.gov/ntcc/classes/class_details.html?class_id=521

 

PubMed for Librarians: Automatic Term Mapping (ATM) – December 9, 2015

http://nnlm.gov/ntcc/classes/class_details.html?class_id=523

 

PubMed for Librarians: Building and Refining Your Search – December 10, 2015

http://nnlm.gov/ntcc/classes/class_details.html?class_id=527

 

PubMed for Librarians: Customization – My NCBI – December 11, 2015

http://nnlm.gov/ntcc/classes/class_details.html?class_id=525

 

Questions? Email rebecca.brown@utah.edu

Monday Webinar — PHPartners.org: Web Portal of the Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce

Join the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region, for a special webinar Monday to learn about the PHPartners.org: Web Portal of the Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce, http://phpartners.org. Hathy Simpson, Public Health Information Specialist, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, will provide an overview of public health information resources available from the public health web portal, including the Healthy People 2020 Structured Evidence Queries (pre-formulated searches of PubMed). PHPartners.org provides access to selected online public health resources from government agencies, health science libraries, and professional and research organizations.

 

August 17, 2015 / Noon – 1 pm (ET)  Online / No Registration Required  https://webmeeting.nih.gov/nlmfocus/

How to Write a Mission Statement Without Losing Your Mind

[guest post by Cindy Olney]

Mission statements are important. Organizations use them to declare to the world how their work matters. They are the North Star for employees, guiding their efforts toward supporting organizational priorities.  And mission statements are important to evaluators, because evaluation methods are ultimately designed to assess an organization’s value.  Having those values explicitly stated is very helpful.

Yet most of us would rather clean out the office refrigerator than participate in a mission-writing process. Now imagine involving 30 people in the writing process. Make that the refrigerator and the microwave, right?

That’s why I am so enthusiastic about the Nonprofit Hub’s document A Step-By-Step Exercise for Creating a Mission Statement, which the authors promise  is a tool “for those who want to skip the nitpicking, word choice arguments or needing to create the elusive ‘perfect mission statement.’”

I won’t go into details about how their process works, because the guide lays it out elegantly and concisely. You can read through the process in five minutes, it is so succinct.   I’ll just tell you what I like most:

  • The exercise reportedly takes 1-2 hours, even though you are engaging up to 30 stakeholders in the process.
  • Stories comprise the foundation of the mission statement: people start by sharing stories about the organization’s best work.
  • The individuals do group qualitative analysis on the stories to begin to understand the organization’s cause, activities, and impact.
  • Small groups draft mission statements, with instruction to write short, simple sentences. In fact, 10- word sentences are held up as an ideal. The small groups share back with the large group, where big ideas are identified and discussed.
  • The actual final wording is assigned to a small task force to create after the meeting, which prevents wordsmithing from dampening the momentum (and the mood).
  • In the end, everyone understands and endorses the mission statement because they helped develop it.

This exercise has potential that reaches beyond development of mission statements.  It would be a great exercise for advisory groups to contribute their ideas about future activities. Their advice will be based on your organization’s past successes.  The stories generated are data that can be analyzed for organizational impact.  If you are familiar with Appreciative Inquiry, you’ll recognize the AI influence in this exercise.

The group qualitative analysis process, alone, could be adapted to other situations (see steps 1 and 2).  For example, a small project team could use the process to analyze stories from interviews, focus groups, or even written comments to open-ended survey questions.

Even if mission statements are not on your horizon, check out the Nonprofit Hub’s document. There might be something you can adapt for future planning and evaluation projects.

 

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