In the fundraising universe, people have different opinions about analytics. Analytics can be used ineptly or sloppily, leading to results that are far from beneficial.
Alexander Oftelie, a nonprofit subject matter expert for the Business Analytics Group at IBM, suggests that there are five ways by which nonprofit managers can avoid mistakes using analytics, but also get the most out of them by being a smart analytics consumer. They are:
1. The richest ingredients are in your garden. Purchased demographic or consumer data can provide insight into constituents and their lifestyles. Such data does not get any closer to the fundamental questions: What is our organization to this person? How do they interact with us? What is driving their engagement?
2. It’s process not project. Analytics is focused around ideas that are sustainable and informative drivers to strategy, if mature. It could develop into sustainable and informative drivers, if nascent.
3. Start with questions that need to be answered, not what answers appear available. Experience and familiarity are helpful guideposts, but predictive analytics is about addressing business needs and creating impact.
4. Analytics works internally, too. Many of the same techniques that model predicting constituent behavior can be applied to look within an organization to examine performance and effectiveness.
5. Engage colleagues. Many analytics consumers discover they have more useful and helpful data when they go beyond internal engagement.