How to make (Fundraising) Data Fun
I was inspired this week by a colleague, a very talented and smart fundraiser, who was talking about some of the challeng . . . er, opportunities . . . we’re both facing and she says, “How do I make data fun? How do I get my data person to get INTO it and really WANT to dig in, get it right and find joy in it?
And I thought . . . .
Because you can talk about the HOW until the cows come home, but if we don’t have the WHY and we don’t find some joy in it, it won’t get done.
So, here goes . . . how do we Make Fundraising Data Fun:
Admit that Data is (probably) your Single Biggest Opportunity
Data quality and usage have a larger impact on our fundraising outcomes than anything else. Seriously. If we don’t have correct addresses or phone numbers or emails, we can’t contact donors or prospects. If we don’t have visit/call notes or prospecting information, we can’t carry the relationship forward as effectively. If we don’t enter the gift information, we can’t track results or donor intent.
Take a good, hard assessment on your data and systems – are you getting what you want out of them? Are they working for you? Is your reporting accurate and helpful? Do you feel confident going into a donor conversation? Are you books balancing?
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. And let’s use the phrase “Data” to mean not only the individual points of information, but your whole infrastructure – reporting, data entry, list management, all of it. Is it what you want and need it to be? Is it supporting you or is it a chore? Invest in a SWOT Analysis on your whole data construct and if it falls short, own that you have an issue.
And hold everyone accountable for their role in managing and using data.
Make it a Part of the Culture
Forgive this soapbox moment, but we are way past the point in the industry where anybody in the shop can have a negative or lackadaisical attitude towards data. And this includes the Chief Development Officer or VP or whoever is in charge of the department.
If there is anybody that’s part of the team who says, “I don’t deal with data, I don’t like data, I just don’t understand it” that’s a big clue to whomever is in charge of it that it’s not a high priority and it’s not valued. They don’t need to the key data expert, but they do need to understand it and appreciate it. And understand the constructs and limitations of the system so that they can better manage it.
Everyone has responsibility for data hygiene, for note taking, for accuracy and for comprehension. Everybody needs to understand what’s in the data, what it shows, how to use it and some basic level access to it. And that means in reporting, too. Are your reports valued? Are they discussed and praised and reviewed? Or are they just a rote practice some somebody spend a lot of time and energy on, but nobody really reads or uses.
Make data something everybody talks about, works to understand, uses and values.
Treat it like a Great Big Puzzle
This is the only way I know how to make it fun. Data analysis does not come naturally to me; when I first started, I didn’t enjoy it, it was a chore and it was boring. Hence the “reluctant” in the “Reluctant Data Geek” title.
But if you treat it like a puzzle, a mystery to be solved rather than a chore, it becomes a lot more interesting to a lot more people.
Don’t you want to know who your longest lapsed donors are? Do you want to find out how many donors renewed?
It’s like a great, big Choose Your Own Adventure story. Make it a game and keep the end goal in sight, not the steps you have to take to get there. It’s the mindset of “I’m going to spend the next half hour ensuring I take care of my donors by entering what we discussed at lunch today” rather than “Gaaah, I’ve got to sit down and do all my notes in the CRM because the boss makes me.” It’s “I’m going to try to find any donors that haven’t renewed this fiscal year” rather than “Yawn, I’ve got to spend the next 2 hours building complex data queries.”
Get Rid of the Fear
You can’t break your CRM, you can’t break your data, there is very little that you can actually do that is irreparable or catastrophically damaging. (Assuming that you know not to hit the ‘save’ button if you do accidentally change some data.)
Unless you’re using Excel as CRM, in which case, I’m sorry. Godspeed. (Really, invest in a CRM – you’re losing money if you haven’t).
Get. Over. It. Seriously. Get in and start digging around, sign up for training with your CRM provider. (Side note: I wish every CRM developer in the world would stop this “self help” model with videos and FAQs and all that and give us free, person-to-person training. More than any other field, data/CRM training really needs to cater to different styles of learning. I’m a physical learner; webinars do me no good.) Even so, if you’re completely lost on how to use your system, call your provider and tell them you need some individual training – just enough to get you going and used to it. Do anything you can do to start getting familiar with your data and your system.
The best thing you can do is log in and start poking at it – “Hey, what does this button do?!?” I promise you, even if you do manage to break it, it can be fixed.
Invest the Time
You don’t have time NOT to be invested in making your data fun. Truly. If it is, indeed, one of your biggest opportunities, invest the time for you and your team to really get it down. Tell yourself, “I’m going to set aside 30 minutes this week and do nothing but getting familiar with data.” Order a team pizza and everybody gather together and work on it. Whatever route you choose, invest in learning something new about your data regularly. Take a free online Excel class – or YouTube video.
Make the time sacrosanct and see it as an investment in your opportunity.
There are some people who love vegetables. Others who hate them. But, nutritional science tells us vegetables are great for us and we should eat more of them.
Data’s the same way. But what we do know is we won’t be healthy without consuming more vegetables. And we won’t be as effective in our fundraising if we don’t pay some attention to our data.