As a Nonprofit Executive, your intelligence has to shine through the data you store in your donor, member, and/or events database. In this article, we wanted to explore the important aspects of business intelligence and how it can be viewed in nonprofits today.
How often do you ask “What if” & scramble to find the answers?
For forward thinking organization, when an association wants to know more about its critical operation, “THE WHAT IF”, it will utilize various report writers to mine the data they have. In most cases, a lot of massaging and even praying is involved, right? Often times (hopefully not today in your nonprofit) business intelligence information is delivered by spreadsheets, charts, graphs and more. Thankfully, today there are key interactive features of business intelligence found today in most Association Management platforms designed for use in various ways including mobile devices. According to an article in CIO magazine, “BI should be sponsored by an executive who has bottom-line responsibility; has a broad picture of the enterprise objectives, strategy and goals; and knows how to translate the company mission into key performance indicators that will support that mission.” Generally speaking, the business intelligence software found in donor databases and membership systems will provide a basic understanding of your information assets and more possessed by the nonprofit. But, do you have confidence in the data? Do you know how to utilize the data to make sense of it? Does your organization have time to actually collate and make sense of it? Here are several considerations to chew on when thinking about business intelligence and utilization of it:
Goals Are Important here too!
A company needs to set goals and understand what they want from their database. After analyzing current operations a business intelligence plan with specific goals can be designed. Here is a funny depiction of the challenges today:
Continuous study and intelligent understanding of your organizational data empowers your entire management team. When a company is pursuing BI it needs to have all elements of the business in agreement of what it means to them. If the member department and finance department have two different understandings of what is defined as net gain, their numbers for the same item won’t match. This can be handled by a uniform set of definitions utilized by all sections of the business.
Member and Engagement Data Storage
Many companies start out today with a database which is cost-effective but can’t grow and change with the company. In essence, they move into an “Apartment” solution and grow into a new “Home”. A company needs to determine if they have a storage problem, a software report writer problem, or some other issue keeping them from obtaining the information they require to run their business better. Suffice it to say, a data warehouse is challenging to design but many nonprofits today have a member or donor database. And, a database with a report writer, theoretically, is all an organization needs to start acting on the intelligence you have curated over the years.
Time and Expertise
As stated by Bear Analytics, a provider of data intelligence services, “Data is your organizational DNA”. Your organization must get the most out of it’s data. For a nonprofit, this could include such things as revenue forecasting, member forecasting, attendee forecasting, & engagement knowledge and more. But, like most nonprofits resources are limited in two critical areas: staffing and time. Because of this limitation, collecting, organizing and analyzing information often does not get adequate attention. Time, Expertise, and focus is paramount to find success in business intelligence. If you are having a difficult time getting the data you need to make pin pointed decisions from your database system, perhaps it’s time to review a better way.
Contact us today and learn more about the solutions available and partners you need to succeed with your data today. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.