What is data and how do I define it in relation to my organization?The term “data” – whether for private, public or nonprofit organizations – refers to all of the measurable indicators and statistics collected within an organization. Everything is therefore potential “data,” from the number of email exchanges you have, to the average donation you receive and the number of participants at your trainings
To be able to sort all of these statistics, the first step is to define which data is most important and how to measure it. For example, for a professional association, you would surely want to look at the number of memberships sold in dollar amounts in one year, whereas for a foundation you would look at the average number of donations in dollars made over a lifetime. It is a way of translating your mission into quantifiable and objective numbers. Regardless of your sector, your data must be reliable, impartial and ample.
Why is data an asset?In the private sector, one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is becoming a “data fluent” organization. This means that, within your organization, everything from operational to strategic decisions is made based on what the data says. Here’s a concrete example: Should we sell ice cream in winter? The response may seem intuitive. However, thanks to the volume of data, we can impartially represent an organization’s reality whereas human beings often cling to exceptions or what seems natural. As a result, an ice cream vendor can make its biggest sales in winter thanks to its brand image and targeted marketing campaigns. Without having studied the differences in revenues across the seasons, the ice cream vendor might not have even realized it.
In NPOs, data also comes into play, and not just for high-level decisions.
ETHICS AND SECURITYFirst, many NPOs manage personal information about their donors, participants or members. Even if your organization doesn’t have the structures in place to leverage this data, there is nevertheless an issue of ethics and security that must be considered. For example, if you collect donations or payments online, make sure that your website has an SSL certificate. (If you host your site on memboGo, don't worry, the certificate is already included). This certificate reassures visitors to your site that their online payments are secure.
Another example: Make sure that your database or computer is protected by a well-guarded password. In addition, if an employee or volunteer leaves your organization, close their account or change the password. Here again, it is a matter of preserving the relationship of trust between your NPO and the people that you support by providing the maximum amount of protection of their personal data.
MAKING THE BEST DECISIONS, EVERY DAYKnowing how to use and analyze your data is a true asset to your daily operations, regardless of your organization's size. By analyzing your data, you can get an answer to any question. For example: Let's say a member asks for a discount but you can't really remember if he is loyal to your organization. By analyzing the member's history, you can decide whether or not the member truly deserves a discount. Another example: What's the best time to send my newsletter and ensure that the largest number of people read it as possible?
IDENTIFYING SECTOR-WIDE OPPORTUNITIES AND RISKSData doesn’t just bring out details that allow you to operate better in the field; it also helps you make better strategic decisions. If your association must head in a new direction, studying your data will reveal repeating patterns, traps to avoid and opportunities that you were previously unaware of. During such reflection processes, it's a good idea to read reports about your field. They'll help you to better understand how the sector is evolving and to position yourself in relation to other actors.
Lastly, your data is useful when you must communicate your impact. All NPOs should collaborate with a board of directors, and numbers and statistics that are carefully collected and analyzed will help you in your discussions.
How do I make the most of our data?Data is a goldmine when it comes to answering any type of question, whether it concerns your impact, your marketing strategy or your relationship with the people who support you.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR NPO'S ORGANIZATIONAL CULTUREIt's now a question of implementing procedures and tools that will allow you to make the most of your data. Internally, you should create a professional culture where decisions are based on real knowledge, and not guesses. To nurture this culture, you need tools that collect data, in addition to making it easily accessible and exploitable
WHICH TOOLS SHOULD I USE?The answer to this question depends on the size, resources and type of NPO that you manage. If your organization is truly starting from scratch, the first simple step is to make a consistent effort to collect information in Excel sheets. Even though it's a basic tool, Excel allows you to conduct your first analyses.
The answer to this question depends on the size, resources and type of NPO that you manage. If your organization is truly starting from scratch, the first simple step is to make a consistent effort to collect information in Excel sheets. Even though it's a basic tool, Excel allows you to conduct your first analyses.
When considering which tools to use for your NPO, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Will the tool help me to collect, store and analyze my data?
- Is my data secure with this tool?
- Can I control who has access to different types of information when using this tool?
- Should I manually collect data and transfer it into my database (or another data storage tool) or my analysis tool? Can the tool be easily linked to other tools?
- Can my storage tool be personalized to highlight the information that's most important to my organization?
Through our experience working with numerous NPOs, including foundations, professional associations and charities, we’re proud of our platform which meets all of these criteria. (Learn more by visiting the different sections of our website!)