With the help of WealthEngine, JDRF has cleaned up its big-data business processes and enhanced its fundraising. Here, Megan Martin, former director of data analysis at JDRF (now at American Cancer Society), and Sally Boucher, director of research at WealthEngine, share some data insights.
Know where to start
“The whole idea of big data sounds very intimidating. That in itself presents a stumbling block for a lot of smaller nonprofits,” Boucher says. “You really need to have a system for collecting and storing and accessing data. You cannot really know what you have or need or how you’re going to get there without having a place where you can audit your current data.”
Her recommendation is to work with a consultant or partner to get started and have a central repository to house your data.
Data quality is key
“A lot of nonprofits, especially small nonprofits, are still getting on board with getting and capturing the data they need, so the data is not always as clean as they hope,” Martin says. “All the business processes haven’t caught up yet, so data quality is sometimes a stumbling block.”
WealthEngine did a major survey on data collection and found that the biggest issues are data cleanliness, consistency and accuracy.
Have systems in place
“Systems are absolutely essential for all business processes,” Boucher says. “To execute a strategy, having a system allows you to test different methods, inputs, track progress, evaluate the effectiveness, etc. Only then can you go on and scale what you’re doing.
“Tracking and evaluating are essential. When talking about big data, there are so many moving pieces, so many skill sets required in working with data — from developing infrastructures to handle the data, to people who can extract that into reporting mechanisms to interpret for business needs,” she adds. “You have to have a data strategy and a process for dealing with it. It can’t be done piecemeal.”