Case Study

How We Built The New YMCA Live Impact Dashboard

“This live data provided by Trust Impact not only allows us to capture the extent of this support, but also to highlight the areas where it is needed most, as well as promoting the vital learning and career opportunities young people need to fulfil their potential – and where to find them.”

Click here to see the YMCA England & Wales live data visualisation

YMCA England and Wales have just launched their new innovative live impact dashboard – – bringing together impact data from across a large federation of local YMCAs in England and Wales.

Trust Impact have worked with YMCA since August 2019 to develop the live data collection and visualisation system which automatically collates data from local YMCA’s databases on an hourly basis, translates the data into a consistent format and then feeds into an interactive national data visualisation.

Collective Impact

Despite a keen interest and lots of work to understand their impact over the years, like many organisations with a federated structure, YMCA England and Wales were faced with a difficult challenge – how to demonstrate the collective impact of the ‘whole’ in real-time rather than relying on an annual collection of high-level numbers which was instantly out of date.

Our challenge was to create a simple, unified impact dashboard to tell the collective story, without having to implement a new database system across the federation. The challenge was considerable – YMCA England and Wales is a federation of over 100 individual charities, with more than 20 different types of database in use, ranging from the latest technologies to excel spreadsheets. Where the same type of database was being used, each was set up differently to meet local requirements which meant all were recording information in different ways.

Keeping It Simple

We very quickly understood that previous attempts to bring impact data together had become too complicated too quickly and had ultimately led to failure. We knew we had to stick to one of Trust Impact’s core principles – ‘keep it simple’.

We decided the best approach was to cause as little inconvenience to each local YMCA as possible, whilst also bringing together the expertise that existed across the federation to ensure the solution we developed was inclusive and would be fully supported by the federation members.

Getting Started

After carrying out our impact review, we recognised that the best approach would be to work within YMCA’s established workstreams and start by focusing on shared housing data to prove the concept. We identified five key YMCA’s – St Pauls Group, Thames Gateway, North Tyneside, Derbyshire, One YMCA and Brunel Group – who were keen to be involved from the start and created an impact working group.

After signing appropriate data sharing agreements we set about creating a central data warehouse to collect and store the data, and then began the tricky task of connecting each individual YMCA database using small programmes we wrote called API’s (Application Programming Interface). As each local YMCA was different, we had to create lots of bespoke connections to match each local circumstance – from more modern cloud based systems which come with established API access as standard, to VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections to locally based servers which often required liaising with local IT companies who provided the local YMCA with IT support.

All of these connections now allow us to automatically update our central data warehouse whenever a local YMCA changes anything in their database.

It wasn’t a simple process though as our new system had to create an hourly link to each local database, access the correct fields in their database, and translate the information into a consistent format (all of which happens in less than 2 seconds each time).

Data was often stored under different field names and in very different places. For example, in departure destinations we found nineteen versions of ‘own tenancy’ (some literally only different due to spelling on a database), and six different versions of ‘staying with family member’.

Most of the differences we processed centrally in the data warehouse in real time, but to make reporting more simple we also agreed with the impact working group a ‘template’ list of 28 move-on destinations. Many of the participating YMCA’s are now adopting these gradually in order to improve the quality of the data on the dashboard.

Demonstrate What Is Possible

Within a few months, by December 2019, we had managed to get a working version of a basic dashboard showing live data of the number of bedspaces occupied across the pilot YMCA’s, the number of voids (empty bedspaces) and the average length of tenancy.

By clicking on a specific YMCA you could segment the data so it would give you key figures for each YMCA. We took this version to the YMCA England and Wales AGM in December 2019 to demonstrate what was possible. The working model was really well received and we soon got the go-ahead to add more YMCAs. Despite the COVID pandemic which set the work back several months, we’ve added many more YMCAs over the past year.

Outputs Or Impact?

We were now able to demonstrate the total number of people being accommodated at any time which gave a very accurate and real-time picture of numbers. Whilst this was useful for funders and supporters, the story YMCA really wanted to tell was about impact – what happens when people leave YMCA accommodation, do they move on into their own homes or better situations than those from which they came? This was the impact everyone wanted to understand.

Transparent Reporting

YMCA’s do an incredible job in some very difficult circumstances with some brilliant results, but they are working with people in complicated situations and so won’t always be successful. We wanted to find a way to demonstrate the successes but also talk transparently about when the work doesn’t result in a positive outcome.

To visualise this, we spent time working with the impact working group to allocate each move-on destination with a value of either ‘achieved’ or ‘not achieved’, accepting that this was not perfect but was a good approximation. The dashboard now shows, both cumulatively and by participating YMCA, how well they are doing in achieving this. It’s a very transparent report showing negative data – like people going to prison – as well as the success stories – people moving into their own homes.

Most importantly, it’s completely live – the data pulls through in real-time so is far more reliable than the previous annual survey return, and it all happens without the local YMCAs having to do any additional work or reporting.

What Next?

YMCA England and Wales have launched the housing dashboard with 15 of the 63 YMCAs who provide housing contributing their live data. We are adding more YMCAs each week to this number in order to provide as full a picture as possible.

We are also currently working on collecting data to build the next two live dashboards – ‘training and education’, and ‘activity’. Once the API link has been established, it is only a matter of agreeing which additional fields we need to collect data from.

We are also piloting an automated wellbeing impact measure that will sit above all of the work YMCA’s do. Our aim is to collect ongoing data from individual beneficiaries with a view to demonstrate the change that happens from an interaction with a YMCA, regardless of whether that’s in housing, a gym, through nursery provision or any other route, has a positive impact on people.


We’ve learnt loads from connecting all of the different databases into one shared data warehouse for YMCA England & Wales and have developed a new platform from this learning called Connect.Mix.Share.

Rather than having to provide full access to their databases, Connect.Mix.Share allows organisations to choose only the data fields they want to share, who they want to share them with, and for how long.

We believe Connect Mix Share is going to be a game changer for all charities. The platform will enable organisations to stream updated data automatically from existing new and old databases alike to provide intelligent sharing without the expense and stress of changing systems, or having to get people to constantly upload data to a third-party system themselves.

Charities can supercharge how they are using their data via Connect.Mix.Share to develop beautiful live data visualisations, real-time reports or benchmarking against public data (IMD, ONS etc), Connect.Mix.Share is ideal for live board, funder and stakeholder reports, sending out automated questionnaires, or sharing specific charity data with researchers on a time-limited basis.

Can Trust Impact Help You?

We would be very happy to talk about how Trust Impact could help your organisation with data visualisation, data collection or your impact strategy.

Click here to arrange a free 30 min consultation meeting, or get in touch – /