Archive for October, 2014

Big Data…

DATE: October 7th, 2014

Big applause to the CMA who sponsored a roundtable for non-profits recently. While major marketing gurus have pushed the topic of big data into “last year’s issue”, non-profits struggle to understand the impact data can bring to their organizations. (Frankly, so are for-profits)

I think data is a problem. We can collect hordes of data – but if we don’t use it, well, it’s just mountains of information on the cloud somewhere. But unraveling the insights in data is harder than we realize. We’ve all heard success stories – Starbucks, with their unusually robust loyalty program, can welcome their customers by name – in any store. That’s amazing. But not all companies have that kind of data or the technical capacity to personalize to that extent.

But let’s start the basics. Data – all of the data we collect – is critical. We can start by learning from the data we have access to. When we start with where we are, as we grow and build our knowledge base, we are able to increase our understanding of our donors/customers.

Tamara Pope, VP of Hamilton Health Services Foundation, summed the issue nicely. Here’s her insights:

  1. Inquiry

Curiosity helps set the parameters of data gathering and data analysis. What do you want to know about your donors/customers? What are the most critical intersections to help you understand your audience better? One survey we did for a non-profit changed the way we approached donors – our uniformed thinking was off-base. With our lack of understanding, we felt the customers were suburban and small town types. After geo-tracking, we learned they actually were urbanites living in high rises in the largest cities in Canada. Who knew?

  1. Information

Data gathers information. In fact, most of us have data at our fingertips right now that will give us additional information about our donor/customer base if we look at it in new ways.

  1. Integrity

Quality data is important. You’ve all heard it a hundred times – garbage in, garbage out. You need to take you data very seriously. In one organization the data was entered by eager volunteers. With no one setting the parameters of the data base, client entries were made without integrity. Variations caused multiple records of the same client with up to six individual entries for that client. When the organization mailed their whole base (100,000), up to 40% were invalid. At $1 a package…. Well, you do the math

  1. Insights

We’ve all stared that that two-imaged photo and tried to see the alternative image. Think about your data base in the same way. Or if you’re into Wordament (Boggle in the olden days), turning the letter box often gives you a whole new reference point. It’s amazing what we see with small shifts of perspective. When you begin to put your data in new boxes you will gain a new view.

  1. Interaction

Engaging with the data with disciplined regularity will increase the insights you gain.

Data matters. But don’t get caught in the maze of misunderstanding by “big data” Start asking questions you want to know with the data you have. If there are questions that can’t be answered, dig deeper.