JDRF’s Big Data Management
Managing a donor database is difficult no matter the size of an organization or its donor base. However, when you are a large, international nonprofit organization, particularly one with chapters across the U.S. in addition to six international affiliates, managing data in a uniform, centralized fashion is even more complex.
JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research, is one of those large, international nonprofits handling data across different chapters spanning the globe.
“We realized we had a ton of software systems,” says Megan Martin, former director of data analysis at JDRF. “We had lots of places to collect and manage data, but it was disjointed. It wasn’t efficient to use the data to answer the strategic questions we wanted to answer.”
Having so many systems in so many different places made it difficult to pull everything together. JDRF had reports everywhere, Martin says. Every system had its own report, staffers kept their own Excel files and some people were looking at different reports, leading to confusion. For instance, one person may have been looking at an older report that was filtered to show just U.S. donors, while her colleague was looking at an updated report that included international support.
All this played into turnaround times for reports spanning weeks and sometimes even months to get a question answered.
“By the time you got the data you needed to make a decision, you had moved on,” Martin says. “Time had passed, and it was too late. You already developed another strategy. We needed to have a way to more efficiently use all this data we were collecting.”
But before it could find a solution, JDRF needed buy-in from executive leadership.
Taking the lead — from the top
The biggest decision JDRF had to make when embarking on this data project was choosing who should drive this IT initiative. Should it be the IT side of the organization or the business side?