It wasn’t so long ago that large datasets gave me the willies – what if I screwed something up? How was I supposed to find the data I was looking for? Did these things come with instruction manuals? Perhaps it was best that I leave the big data alone.
My plan of strict avoidance was working quite nicely until I started a new job in 2011. My new project manager sent me a large dataset and said “Just make a pivot table and summarize this stuff.”
A pivot what?
Turns out that despite getting a couple of sciencey degrees, I had never heard of the pivot table. After conveying as much to the project manager through some strategic stammering, she gave me a quick run-down – and I haven’t looked back since.
Today I use pivot tables for everything.
Cleaning data? Pivot table.
Summarizing data? Pivot table.
Prepping data for fancy data visualizations? Pivot table.
Test-driving different chart types? Pivot table actually I use pivot charts for that one.
Pivot charts? They’re like visual pivot tables.
You get the idea.
Nonprofits: It’s time to stop worrying and love the pivot table.
With data becoming so pivotal (heh) in our day-to-day lives, donors and funders are expecting more proof of impact – feel-good stories and pretty pictures alone aren’t cutting it anymore.
To reach this support base, you need data. After all, nothing beats a metric or measurement to show off your success.
That means it’s time for your nonprofit to clean up its act. No more dribs and drabs of data stashed away in poorly-organized spreadsheets. No more “good enough” calculations on scraps of paper. It’s time to get comfortable with data and make it work for you.
Pivot tables are indispensable for working with large datasets quickly and efficiently. If your nonprofit is serious about adding data visualization to its communications repertoire, investing the time to learn now will pay off in a big way.
I know what you’re thinking – this all this sounds wonderful on paper (or a computer screen, as it were), but you don’t have the time! The money! You’re not a numbers person! It didn’t come with an instruction manual!
I’ve got you covered.
Setting the table.
I created On the Table, an online course on how to deal with large datasets in Excel. On the Table walks you through flat tables, pivot tables, and pivot charts, complete with a downloadable workbook and step-by-step instructions.
Until the end of 2016, this course is totally free (you can enroll now and watch any time if you’d rather save my dulcet tones for 2017). Feel free to let others know about the course – it turns into a pumpkin (i.e. paid course) on January 1st.
My goal with this course is to help you gain the confidence you need to store data properly, work with it efficiently, and present it to the world spectacularly. Enjoy!
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