The point in the quote I am using is to tell you that you do not have to become a Data Analyst to be able to use Data. This blog is intended to help you to begin to ask the right kind of questions about Data, and how to help others become smarter and more efficient in their ability to help you get the answers to your questions.
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Einstein
Objection #1 The Cost
Let’s begin with some very good news. Many of the best technical tools to analyze Data are free to nonprofit organizations. Since there are free versions of some tools, let’s begin with a simple question to ask of your Accidental Techie. “How many of our emails sent to our lists are opened within three days of mailing?”
Two weeks ago we at NPTech sent out a mailing to a small number of people whom we thought may be interested in our Impact Circles program. Of the original 18, less than half had opened the email. How did we know? We used the free version of Mailchimp to send the emails, and part of the program provides you with an analysis of results. By the way other programs do essentially the same thing, but we had used Mailchimp for other tasks.
Your Accidental Techie can learn how to use this very quickly, and can now provide you with the answer to your question.
We then asked ourselves about why the number of those opening the email was so low. We decided to find out by sending another email from a personal email address that most if not all of the recipients would recognize. In that email we explained why we were writing, suggested they look at our website by including a link to it, and then suggested that it was likely that since the email address we used in the first mailing was not recognized, perhaps it was deleted or just not opened as yet. The result as measured in Mail Chimp was that many had now opened our email, and by the way since the original email also included a link to our site, we could see that many had now clicked into the site.
So, for no cash cost, we were able to analyze our first mailing, discovered a problem, and dealt with it.
Objection #2 So Much to Learn to become Competent in Data Analysis
If you use the example above, or something similar, your Accidental Techie is now smarter than you in the getting the specific answer to that one question you want from your Data. As you progress to asking about how many are looking at your website, what they are looking at, and how long they are staying, you begin to challenge your Techie, who by the way is no longer Accidental, but has now become your Tech Department. As the E.D., you need to provide resources to your people. The required resources will be the result of examining your specific situation. I would suggest that you first provide some reading resources to your Tech Department.
If you Google “Nonprofits and Data Analytics” you will see a headline “The Secret to Unlocking Google Analytics for Nonprofits”. This article, written by Andrew Garberson, and provided through Nonprofit Hub will introduce you to the kinds of things you can ask questions about and give your Tech Department an introduction to a whole set of tools to use.
If your analysis of your organization tells you that you need more help, we have another suggestion. In that same Google search you will see a listing for a blog written by Beth Kanter called “Help, my Nonprofit Needs a Data Nerd”. In that piece you will see various suggestions about finding help and various ways to use it. One of her key suggestions is for you to consider the competencies on your Board. Perhaps you already have someone who is comfortable with Data Analysis and can become a mentor to your Tech Department. If not, there is a suggested lead to a group on Linked In that provides information about individuals interested in joining nonprofit boards.
Disclaimer Warning: Own your Data
This is a personal prejudice of mine. You should make a decision about all of the software and tools that you use in your organization pertaining to who owns the data. If you hire an individual or organization to create a website, do fundraising, or host data, make sure that it is clearly understood that your organization owns the data.
The one takeaway from this blog is that when it comes to data, you do not have to be the smartest person in the room. Please encourage your Data Department to strive to continually become smarter and more efficient. We’ll help you to know the questions to ask.
Also Beth Kanter: Help! My Nonprofit Needs A Data Nerd and How To Find Them!