A First Date with Data
By: Ana Canning

She goes by many names - Data Analytics, Big Data, Data Visualization. Data is a decision-maker, and a knowledge powerhouse. She is a techie, speaks in code (Python anyone?), and is revered by every sector in town. 
But for many nonprofits, particularly those that are resource-strapped or were born before the technology and data revolution (no judgement here - I still don't understand Snapchat), Data is intimidating and seems unattainable. This is your simple guide to overcoming insecurity, breaking the ice, and forming an enduring bond with Data.
The First Date 
Prioritizing and staying focused will keep you from getting overwhelmed by the world of Data.  Identify and prioritize how you want engage with Data.  Is it to:
  • evaluate the effectiveness of your programs
  • test different advertising strategies to maximize efficiency
  • demonstrate the impact of your work
  • better understand your funder base and behavior
  • understand your differentiators in a crowded field, or
  • help make the case for why funders should support you?
  Once you clarify your needs, identify a few metrics that are most relevant and will effectively meet those needs. For the development team, this could mean calculating the cost to raise a dollar, donor renewal and retention rates, and mapping your peer organizati ons' donor pool to surface trends and untapped funding sources. 

The Courtship
Becoming more sophisticated and savvy when it comes to Data doesn't mean you have to completely overhaul your systems. Once you define your needs and data points, there are many user-friendly tools that can be used to collect, analyze, and visualize data. There are platforms, like CauseIQ, that generate information on your nonprofit competition instantaneously.  Tableau   can be used to organize and present data for visual impact.  Platforms like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and Twitter Analytics also provide free tools that can help you determine which audiences are responding best to your organization's online content.

In the time it takes to ask, "So, how's it going with Data?!" you can coolly provide updates using a dashboard. Dashboards are fantastic management and communication tools that can provide staff, board members, and funders with a snapshot of your progress toward programmatic and revenue goals.  There's no reason not to try it out!

First steps? Basic training in Microsoft Excel is a must. If you want to delve deeper into Data, organizations lik General Assembly   offer more in-depth courses in data science and analytics.  Once you are hooked, try out Zoho Reports , iDashboard , or Domo Reports for some snazzy and constantly updated graphics.  We recommend that every nonprofit adopt this best practice.

A growing number of individuals and firms specialize in data analytics and can help you navigate the courtship period. An internal staff person with the adequate time and training is a cost-effective option. However, Data loves accuracy and consistency.  GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) is a pet peeve.  Ensure that whomever you tap to help navigate this terrain is aware of these likes and dislikes, and has the training needed to make sure your data is clean, and to keep it clean. 

The Commitment
Your relationship with Data will grow and evolve as you become more comfortable with one another.  The benefits of committing to Data in the long-term are numerous. Data will keep you honest, help you be more efficient and impactful, and make you shine in a sea of nonprofits competing for the same dollars. 

So, go ahead and ask for a first date.  You will not regret it.

The NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative (NYCCLSI) was launched in 2012 by the United Federation of Teachers in collaboration with the New York City Council, the Partnership for New York City and Trinity Wall Street. 

 It aims to improve student achievement by meeting the health, safety and social service needs of students, parents and communities. It does so by facilitating partnerships between schools and non-profits, local businesses, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies. The Initiative began with six schools and has grown to nearly 30 community schools across the five boroughs of New York City.
Having first developed a strategic road map and case for support for CLS, OAI is now partnering with the organization to implement a fundraising operation and to recruit members for its governing Board of Directors.

Paul Smith's College, located on a 2,800-acre residential campus, with an additional 14,000 acres of sustainable forest under management in the heart of the Adirondacks, offers more than 20 degree programs to educate and prepare students for careers in forestry, environmental science, business, culinary arts, and hospitality.

Paul Smith's College came to OAI seeking ways to build mutually-beneficial partnerships with companies operating in these sectors. We have begun working with Paul Smith's College as its embedded Corporate Relations partner. Our work includes identifying, building and designing partnerships to increase the opportunities for students to engage in real-world situations to enhance their academic studies, as well as growing and diversifying revenue for the College via new sponsorship, collaborations and in-kind support.

Professional Development Workshop at the School of Professional Studies, Columbia University 

Orr Associates, Inc. (OAI) team members Craig Shelley, CFRE, CJ Orr, and Brandon Emerson presented at a Professional Development Workshop and Networking Reception hosted by the Nonprofit Management Program's Prof essional Development Series at the School of Professional Studies, Columbia University on March 29, 2018.

In this engaging fundraising technology workshop, OAI staff introduced the latest cutting-edge tools available to nonprofits. They gave an overview of the variety of online and software technologies available to fundraisers and walked workshop participants through the sophisticated tools used by OAI. The goal was to give  an understanding of how these tools, and others like them, can be used to  raise money and optimize revenues within the nonprofit sector.


OAI welcomed Devon Gaffey to the DC office in April in the role of Marketing and Communications Associate. 

Devon graduated from College of Charleston in 2016 with bachelor's degrees in Communications and Spanish and worked for a year in digital marketing and crisis communications at creative agency, Push Digital.  After leaving Push, she spent a year teaching and living in Andalusia, Spain, to become fluent in Spanish and eat some tapas along the way!

We're excited to have her on board.

Responding to the increasingly complex burdens on nonprofit leaders, OAI has developed a transformational approach to fundraising and strategy consulting.  Our teams of experienced professionals seamlessly embed themselves with nonprofits to fundraise, to recruit and improve board leadership, to build consensus and direction through new strategies, and to provide executive, fundraising, and financial leadership.  With offices in Washington, DC and New York City, OAI has partnered in our clients' success for more than 25 years, helping more than 600 nonprofits raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their causes. 


See how we can help you today at www.oai-usa.com.   



 View our profile on LinkedIn    Follow us on Twitter    Like us on Facebook