Apples, FUCs, & Percentage Change

Shelter Animals Count shares simple tips to demystify your data-driven decision-making

“We know that data can be overwhelming—whether you love spreadsheets or hate them,” shared Stephanie Filer and Samantha Hill of Shelter Animals Count (SAC) in their recent webinar, Decisions, Decisions: Using Data to Evaluate Programs & Identify Opportunities. We pulled out some MVPs from the many actionable tips offered in the session.

ID Your FUC

How to tame that overwhelming feeling? “It’s all about having a starting point” say Filer and Hill. “What will you look at first? What does it mean?” They suggest a single calculation to focus on, such as % Change, which compares the number of animals from one point in time to another.

For example:

[Intakes 2021] minus [Intakes 2020]= # animals changed

# animals changed divided by [Intakes 2020]= % Change

Another important Frequently Used Calculation (FUC) is Length of Stay, which is simply the Date of Outcome minus the Date of Intake. “Understanding how long animals have stayed in care can show bottlenecks in outcomes,” says SAC.

Making Sure We’re All on the Same Page

Created in partnership with Human Animal Support Services, SAC recently introduced an Animal Welfare Glossary of calculations, intake metrics and outcome metrics that aims to ensure a shared understanding of commonly used terms. Bonus: There’s even a section for industry jargon.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

When comparing calculations, it’s important to compare apples to, well, apples. Here are a few best practices.

Comparisons can be:

  • Month over month (i.e. August compared to July)
  • Same month, different year (i.e. August 2022 compared to August 2021)
  • Year over year (2022 vs. 2021)
  • Quarter vs. quarter (Q3 vs. Q2)

Comparisons should not be:

  • Month vs. year (August 2021 vs. full year 2021)
  • Partial year over full year (January-June 2021 vs. January-December 2020)
  • Different samples represented in each time period (i.e. ensure the reporting organizations remain the same)

For more tips, register for the recording, and be sure to join Filer and Hill for the final webinar in the series on December 7, What’s The Story with Your Data?

Photo: Shelter Animals Count


The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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