Bad Bosses Hate Data
When you are wandering around your next P2P conference lunch, plate in hand, work hard to sit next to Kathryn Hall from Blackbaud. She’s smart. She’s funny. But more importantly, she can help you. Her blog, What Can Our Past Tell Us About Our Future, is a succinct tutorial on the use of data you have in hand right now.
Just like professional basketball players continue to practice basic acts like catching and throwing a basketball, we fundraisers have to sometimes be reminded of the basics of historical analysis, which supports better decision-making for the future.
If we were a for-profit, we’d be using language like “business intelligence” to describe the act of backward-looking data collection to inform decisions we have to make today. Creating business intelligence through data analysis is a required and expected part of the for-profit environment. Business intelligence drives strategy. If we aren’t going through those same processes as a nonprofit, regardless of the size of our program, we’re screwing up.
If your organization decided to forego a serious effort to identify your data sources and analyze what those various data sets mean, there are nefarious forces at work.
If your boss has used the phrase, “I really have my finger on the pulse of this thing so we don’t need to spend the time analyzing the data,” be afraid.
Translation (dialect = confused): “I don’t know how to analyze my data. What is a ‘data source’ anyway?”
Translation (dialect = pompous): “Seriously? Like that is going to tell me something I don’t already know.”
Translation (dialect = inert): “It doesn’t matter what the data says; this is the way we are doing it.”
At Turnkey, the entire business is built on identifying data sources and analyzing data to turn it into higher fundraising. The idea that one could have data and not use it is like ordering a fine meal and not eating it, or leaving the water running all day in the middle of a drought, or letting a perfectly good chocolate bar melt in the car. These things are truly wrong.
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.