How do I describe the problem to convince potential partners of the need?
You may want to divide your data collection into two phases:
Phase I: The "quick and dirty" data that already are available on a Web site or by talking with someone on the phone, and
Phase II: More "in-depth" data that will take more time and effort to collect, often involving surveys (discussed later in this chapter).
Well-presented "quick and dirty" data and a couple of compelling anecdotes usually will get people's attention. Initial data collection may be as basic as calling hospital emergency rooms to ask how many dental emergencies they see, or calling Head Start programs or school nurses for the number of children they see in a year with toothaches.
This worksheet will help you decide how much information you want to gather now to tell your story vs. what you will need once you have a task force:
Both quantitative data (measurements) and qualitative data (descriptions) will be helpful. Package statistics and anecdotes so they tell a compelling story. Mission of Mercy events, held across the country, often generate media coverage that describes both the scale of need and moving personal stories. Search online for articles; there may be video, too.
Present concise facts that convey a consistent message about a compelling problem with a solution. Although professionally-prepared national fact sheets serve as good models, local fact sheets should be even more effective. Later on, you can use this fact sheet or a variation when seeking funding for your clinic.
While numbers are important, putting a human face on the problem makes it more compelling. These sample anecdotes may help you to frame your own stories.