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What nonprofits can do with mature data ecosystems

I like to think of data as a living organism. With its constant evolution and movement, it’s our responsibility to maintain the highest levels of data hygiene.

Organizations who can capture their data and make sense of it have a competitive advantage that will set them ahead of the pack.

No matter where you stand this year in terms of fundraising, data should be a top priority. It is essential to every aspect of nonprofit fundraising, whether that’s keeping track of emergency donors or investigating a drop in sustainers.

Data-driven organizations are more mature, more stable and more successful than their competitors.Given everything going on right now, investing in your data seems like a no-brainer.

If you’re still unsure, let’s take a look at some of the things nonprofits can do thanks to mature data ecosystems. But before we do, we must first discuss what maturity means for a data-driven organization.

DETERMINING YOUR MATURITY LEVEL

The first step to determining your data maturity level is honesty. Having a true pulse of where you’re at now will help you map out the steps you need to take to improve.

Start by asking yourself one main question:

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Then, perform a few follow-up questions to better assess your program:

  • Is there a team dedicated to analytics within your organization?
  • Do you have the technology available to help you store, manage and gain insights from your data?
  • Do data and analytics drive your decision-making processes, or are decisions usually made by top leadership?
  • Is your data trusted among your employees?
  • Are your analytics descriptive, predictive and prescriptive?

By answering these questions honestly, you can determine the level of your data maturity. Here is a great resource that will help you in your assessment process.

While you may not be at the established level quite yet, knowing what you can do with your data once you get there may help you make the leap.

There’s a long list of reasons why being data-driven is the best – and really only - option for nonprofit organizations. Here are just a few things you can do better thanks to your data:

INNOVATE: THE IDEAL OUTCOME OF A MATURE DATA ECOSYSTEM

If your organization is truly mature when it comes to data, you can constantly strive to be a center of excellence for data-driven fundraising and decision-making.

Organizations that embrace data are more innovative and stable than their competitors.

MAKE CALCULATED DECISIONS: IMPROVED VISIBILITY

For many organizations, strategic decisions may be a shot in the dark or fall solely on the shoulders of top executives. With a mature data ecosystem, nonprofits can use data to give them the insights needed to make informed decisions that lead to better results.

Whether you’re a local food bank or a national research organization experiencing elevated levels of revenue and an influx of new donors or you’re going through a revenue decline, capturing and analyzing your data will give you the visibility you need to make future-focused decisions.

Having a real picture of where your organization stands is always helpful but is especially critical during times of uncertainty or financial instability.

SET YOUR FUTURE: FORECASTING AND MODELING

Miao Wang, a Lead Statistician from our Insights team, sums it up perfectly. She compares this to your local meteorologist. Each morning she gives you the forecast for the week, telling you whether you need to brace for a cool front or pack your rain jacket.

With data, you can do the same thing. You can use historical data to predict and forecast what revenue numbers to expect from an appeal or campaign. You can even predict whether a certain major donor will give or not.

This kind of modeling allows you to detect patterns and make predictions that guide strategic decision-making and results.

BE RELEVANT: PERSONALIZATION AND TARGETING

Donors expect a certain level of personalization in all of their interactions now. With a mature data ecosystem and advanced analytics, you can create highly personalized and targeted campaigns that make your donors feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Even more importantly, you can trust that the data you’re using to build these campaigns is accurate.

Investing in data is the phased process that takes time. It may also take you and your team out of your comfort zone. But getting over your initial fear will propel your organization ahead in the race to stay innovative and relevant as you build a sustainable future.

Getting started? Learn how to begin building the foundation for data success in this article by Chief Data Officer Cathy Folkes.

Christophe Peron

As Chief Revenue Officer of Data at RKD Group, Christophe helps lead the RKD Insights team in providing cutting-edge data and analytics services to nonprofit organizations across North America.

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