For some organizations, the difficult aspect of the data process does not lie in collecting data but rather in making meaning from it. Working with data can sometimes feel overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have extensive experience in analytics. However, there are some actions you can take to help turn data into insights.
How Can I Strengthen How My Organization Uses Data?
As data expert Tim Lockie noted in our recent chat, “Information is just data with context and meaning in it. And information becomes insight. And what actually matters for organizations is insight.” Want to better convert your data into actionable insights? Here are some tips.
Set Perfectionism Aside
Many of us in the nonprofit sector deal with a desire for perfectionism. In a recent chat with leadership expert Sonya Perez-Lauterbach, she discussed the importance of releasing perfectionism through things like acknowledging self-talk and focusing on the reasons people give (which aren’t because you have the fanciest brochures). When working with data, there is no such thing as perfectionism. Using data is an iterative process that is constantly improving and changing.
Set Aside Time for Data
Tim noted that “the value of data is relative to what else you’re going to do with it.” You can have a huge database with tens of thousands of records, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t efficiently using it. Setting aside time on your calendar to work with data can help you get more insight from it. As Tim noted, the time available will likely vary from month to month. Do what you can, and you’ll start to see progress.
Connect Data to the Big Picture
One of the most interesting parts of my discussion with Sonya occurred when she talked about the importance of connecting data management tasks with the big picture. This helps associate data with underlying goals of your organizational mission. For people not as experienced working with data, this can help increase the motivation to get things done and perhaps make data work more enjoyable along the way.
Take Baby Steps When Needed
When it comes to data, getting from where you currently are to where you want to be often takes time. Taking baby steps can help you continually make progress without feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. Tim recommends a single way to do this, encouraging people to “get an outcome that you’re curious about, create the report that would help you, and then work from there to go set that up in the system to track it.” Approaching data one outcome at a time is a great way to make valuable progress.
Continuously Develop Your Skills
Working with data means that you’ll often hit a roadblock where you need more information to proceed. Whether this involves learning more about a statistical technique or mastering a feature in Excel, a simple google search is often all that stands between you and advancing your knowledge. Additionally, as you work more with data, unfamiliar skills and processes will quickly become comfortable. Just like other skills in your repertoire, working with data is an area of lifelong learning. Don’t be afraid to dive in and keep learning!
Data Is Only as Useful as Your Ability to Convert It into Insights
If you have a ton of data that you could put to better use, these tips will hopefully get you started along your journey to data-driven decision-making. However, it is understandable that many people in the nonprofit sector may lack the time or experience necessary to feel comfortable engaging in this process alone. This is where a fundraising CRM like Keela can make a huge impact! Keela allows you to organize your data and reporting in order to build better donor relationships and fundraise more efficiently.