Who 'Owns' the Data in Your Organization?
Let's talk about organizations and how they approach data. It's really an interesting situation and one that can start to get complicated — politics are involved, that word "ownership" gets in the way and then there's the discussion about what "data management" really means.
For anyone in the IT area who might be reading this, don't worry, I'm not going to turn this conversation into a database conversation. But I am going to challenge ownership of data under specific circumstances.
Below are some key questions that every organization should ask internally to make sure its data is "owned" in a way that it is optimized.
- What do you think is the primary purpose of your constituent data?
- Who in the organization makes decisions around what data is captured in the database?
- Who manages the hygiene of the data? Who is held accountable for data hygiene and quality?
- Who tracks changes in the constituent data?
Let's break these four questions down and talk about why they are important. But let me go ahead and tell you that the best answers do not identify only one department.
Many organizations would immediately say that the primary purpose of the constituent data/database is to make sure they have records of their donors, volunteers, etc. Indeed, this is a correct answer, but if it is the only answer, there's a problem. I would suggest that the only reason to have a record of your constituents is so you can do something with the data. Those records exist for the purpose of raising money, spreading awareness and building relationships. The data is a means to an end — not the end itself.
This is a huge distinction because if the purpose of the data is not understood at all levels of the organization and by the people who are interacting with it or accountable for it, then there is likely to be confusion down the road. Confusion? Yes, confusion about why it is important, how it should be handled and how it should be managed. Let's face it — if the data is not usable for optimized marketing and fundraising, it has greatly missed the mark.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.