Monday, January 20, 2014

Statistics Goes Beyond the Classroom

Last quarter, I did a project to help improve the stats class I was learning in, and this quarter I got to do a project using statistics to help the community around me. I worked with Hope Lodge, an organization in Rochester that offers free residence facilities and programs for cancer patients. I volunteer at Hope Lodge, so my connections helped give me a jump start on the project, but it was interesting to get another perspective of ways I can help.

Madison and I worked together to do an analysis of their yearly donations. Since Hope Lodge relies so heavily on outside donations, this project offered a lot of insight into what keeps the Hope Lodge running. After talking with the manager and presenting our ideas to her, we knew that the donations project was going to be the most beneficial for the Hope Lodge. The project included a lot of tedious work because we took piles of raw data and turned them into something meaningful. What were once spreadsheets of words and numbers turned into easily understandable graphs that made results clear. Below is an example of a graph I made. It divides all of the donations into varying price categories.

Going even further with the price categories, I divided them into the purposes Hope Lodge uses the donations for. The difficult part about categorizing the donations by purposes was renaming each donation by using standardized labels. Here is an example of the graph of purposes of donations within the 0-$49.99 price range.

This project took a lot of time and effort, and while the results have importance, the manager's to-do list is way too long for her to be able to complete this analysis each year. This made me think about what I could do to help Hope Lodge obtain these results each year without having our help. As a result, I created a new donations input system on Google Forms. This system standardizes all entries while offering enough flexibility for the varying donations received each year. The best part about it is the summary of responses that creates graphs just like the ones I made above with the click of a button. The input process is very easy, anyone from volunteers to staff could do it, and the results are easily accessible at any time.

Overall, this project was a big undertaking, but being able to help an organization that does so much good in the community made it all worth it. I was satisfied with the analysis we did, but I am even more excited to see what Hope Lodge can do with the new input system in the future! Who would have thought a school project could really make a difference?

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