Beyond the Data: How to Tell a Funding Story

One of the things we love to do at Getting Smart is to illuminate the path forward by sharing data and stories about things that are positively impacting students. Thankfully, finding great stories to highlight is pretty easy, as there are lots of funders, policy makers and schools working together to make a difference in the education space.

After investing over $9.5 million over the course of a multi-year initiative involving schools, EdTech companies, state agencies and more, College Spark Washington (CSW) partnered with Getting Smart in order to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of its College Readiness Initiative (CRI).

Specifically, College Spark wanted to dissect and disseminate the vast amount of information they had aggregated through a formal evaluation process (conducted by the BERC Group) in a way that would inform future funding initiatives, amplify the great work of participants, inform practice and share data in meaningful and consumable ways.

The Impact Study Process

To help them meet their goals, we formed a plan encompassing a wide range of the services we offer including advocacy, advisory, coaching and publication creation.

Research Design

The purpose of the College Readiness Initiative Impact Study was to summarize the impact of the funded programs on desired outcomes and to share findings with grantees, partners, policymakers and students in hopes that even more students would benefit by learning from this model.

The impact study methodology included a meta-analysis of data points from ongoing research conducted regarding the CRI (including, but not limited to, research conducted by the BERC group and University of Texas-Pan American). Additionally, the Getting Smart (GS) team facilitated a convening of grantees, conducted interviews with all stakeholder groups, designed and executed an impact study survey, and gathered related national data that would provide a context.

The Process Led to Products with Data + Stories

This project is a great example of what we consider our sweet spot, combining a range of deliverables and processes that complemented each other, and each of these items integrated another piece of key data (we synthesized 479 pages of evaluation into key infographics, paper tables and presentations).

Project Design and Management

We used our design thinking process to frame the goals of the project, generate ideas on how to meet them, create meaningful products, orchestrate data visualization & synthesis, and deliver and adapt them based on input from participants.

Strategic Design

Knowing that two critical components for the College Spark included a customized summative board report that would focus on initiative impact, lessons learned, and key takeaways to inform future strategic direction, our team partnered with the College Spark board to review the initiative and future investment strategies.

Board Report

Board Presentation



Multimedia Content Development

College Spark wanted to impact the field – including practitioners, funders and policy makers – by leveraging the power of combining data, stories, and graphics to convey information and call others to action. Getting Smart, in partnership with College Spark and participating partners, generated and shared these papers and infographics.


An Integrated Approach to Academic and Social Supports: A Case Study on Increasing College Readiness through AVID

An Integrated Approach to College, Career & Life Readiness: A Case Study on Personalizing Guidance


Academic and Social Supports Matter: Preparing Students for College, Career and Life Readiness

Every Student Deserves a Champion for College, Career and Life Readiness

Communication and Social Media & Growth

To complement the papers and feature the great work of participating educators, our team produced podcasts, wrote and solicited blogs and shared the results of the initiatives in “consumable chunks” via social media.


Partnerships Propel Readiness Results with a Focus on Equity


11 Essentials For Maximum Impact on Student College Prep Success

Example of Professional Learning

A key component of the strategic design of this project was the facilitation of professional development sessions with educators from the participating schools. While part of the focus was to extract key learnings and narratives, we used it as an opportunity for professional development for all participants to learn the art of storytelling and the power of public narrative.

Core Competencies

One of the things we love to do here at Getting Smart is integrate services to provide a powerful and coherent message, and what we learned in this project is that it can also be a valuable way to tell an important story.

College Spark agreed, saying “It would be awesome if we had a Getting Smart on all of our projects.” For more on Getting Smart services, visit our services site or email [email protected]

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