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Decoding The Giving Code (And Turning It Into Action Plan): Part II

In the Part I of this two-part post, we discussed some of the steps an organization can take to usher in a data-driven mindset. We also discussed that being data-driven is a journey and not a destination. Indeed, it is an ongoing process, and it's like practicing a sport: the more you practice, the better you get at it. Also, like a sport, the players' passion and will to keep playing makes a difference in the end result.

Thus, in order to instill the mindset and culture, an organization must begin by taking the measures to build internal capacity to become data driven, and some of those measures were discussed in Part I.

Once you have sufficient awareness and acceptance of data and data-driven decision making within your organization, the next step is to make the data itself more robust, more relevant and multi-faceted. Here are some ways in which data variety and quality within an organization can be improved:

  • Pool the constituent data across the organization: If your nonprofit works with students, and you solicit donations from their parents, then ideally, the data relative to the students and their families, the parental volunteering data, event attendance and donation history of parents should all be pooled together. This way, the fundraising staff can get a clearer picture of a family's engagement with the organization.

An important balance to strive for here is also ensuring data privacy. Your fundraising staff should only see the details that are pertinent to fundraising, such as the family's engagement. Some student data such as student's performance and grades, must be masked from the fundraising team. In other words, pooling data from various sources also goes hand-in-hand with stricter visibility rules and access controls to that data.

Whether your database system allows this sharing, and the extent to which your database allows this merge-and-separate function, depends on which CRM/Database system you use. Each existing CRM or database in the market supports this to a varying degree.

  • Ensure that Collected Data is Clean: Needless to say, the cleaner the data, the more accurate the decisions and insights drawn from it. This data quality within an organization is often a reflection of overall organizational data policy. Does your organization have well trained staff that knows how data is entered? Does your organization have well defined intake processes? Lastly, does your organization have a select set of people who enter important data?

  • Connect with Social Media and other channels to bring in additional insights from your donors: When you collect data from your social media channel such as Twitter or Facebook, you do not need to record every move of your donor. What you need is a summary of their engagement, which directly reflects on their passion for your mission. This data can be valuable tool in increasing engagement and outreach. This engagement can be either simply tracked, to determine a donor's interest in the cause, or can be utilized to identify influential thought leaders to actively promote your content, and rewarding them for promoting it. Integrating this with your central CRM or database is useful for deciding future strategy.

  • Add Connectivity To Your Technology Checklist: If you are purchasing a new technology solution, b it a mass communication tool or a database/CRM system, actively seek out options that support centralizing and integrating data together. Not all database systems available in the market today are built from ground up, to integrate data from diverse sources. Their ability will determine your ability to bring data together.

  • Make Your Reporting Tool An Ally: A number of database systems have a limited ability for customizing reports, but to get the accurate pulse of your system, your reports should tell you the story about your progress and areas of improvement. For an accurate insight, it is as important to tweak your report generators, as it is to define Key Performance Indicators.

With these additional steps, you will be able to improve your data-driven decision making. Ultimately, real work is done by people, through real life relationships, however, they will be empowered by the tools made available due to undertaking the steps described above.

Lastly, your KPI's are not a report card. They should not be, at least in the beginning. Initially, the KPI's should serve as a basis to define the direction and focus of organization, going forward. Setting goals - and then meticulously tracking those goals, with the same tools, as we pursue the direction, will take us to success.

Along the way, we will just realize that we have become a "data driven" organization!

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