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The Insight from Insight

*** update ***

I’m talking at the CIOF Insight conference on the 24th April 2023 about reporting and online donors. The insight conference is definitely one of the big conferences for database and insight people in the not for profit space, I always leave with great ideas of things that we can help fundraisers do more with less.

Last week I attended the Institute of Fundraising Insight Conference. This conference marked 10 years of the group being set up and was very well attended.

From the sessions that I sat in on I felt that this was the place that the cool kids were hanging out and most of the sessions left me buoyed and excited with what was possible and where, as a sector, we are heading. I still have my hang ups about the sector, in so much as Data People are still not seen in all organisations at senior leadership levels and I think they should be to enable the voice of the data to be heard but everything that I saw said that there is appetite for this now.

So with this in mind, here are my key takeaways:

  1. The first presentation was on the changing face of BI and whilst it was a light hearted session the key take away that I had from this was the same questions are still being asked 10 years on! This is no bad thing. This is the questions that we need answering still ring true what has changed is the way that we surface this data. In 2009 it was a complicated excel spreadsheet In 2019 there are more tools available to help you make data look sexy which, if it gets traction at the top, must be good.
  2. Presentation – I have always been a functional person rather than a pretty person, ask anyone who has ever worked with me on the apps that we’ve created for data integration. They work, the screens aren’t over pretty but they don’t break. What you saw were simple things that you could just take away and implement when you get back to your desk for reports. These included phrases like less is more when looking at lines and labels.
  3. The next session I went to was by a team working with a larger charity and what I learned from that was that mapping reporting is really cool and people seem to get it, especially at senior levels within the organization. Yeah, I get that tables don’t do it for most people. I have been known to use the “Wall of data” when describing some of the analysis that I have produced, but that’s because I want to empower users to be self sufficient. Like I say when I’m running training sessions, the best way to learn is by doing, this probably goes back to the give a man a fish, teach a man to fish ……
  4. After lunch I headed to the only session I’ve ever been to which had details about Winston Churchill’s toilet. I’ve worked with JustGiving data for a very long time. Jon gave a great talk about the JustGiving stories and analysing the content of statements to help with fundraisers and engagement. This truly was a great piece of insight and if you get a chance download his report. It is fascinating reading and I believe will truly help organisations deliver better supporter care processes to this extremely important group of fundraisers.
  5. My final session of the day was around Data Quality, this for me, brought the day full circle. It’s really great that we are now at a stage of embracing data (if it is pretty) but it does have to be built upon a solid foundation. For me, data quality should always be an organsational responsibility not just the database teams as guardians of the golden nuggets. We need to educate and embrace data. Don’t keep data for data’s sake and think about what you want to do with it.

All in all, this has made me think about a project that we are undertaking at Actually Data around metrics and how we can create something powerful, insightful and most importantly usable to fundraisers where there isn’t a ream of database people or analysts and engineers. If you’re interested in working with us on this, please get in touch.

Looking forward to 2020, I feel the next couple of years will see a growth in Charities doing more with what they’ve got. Whether that be around mechanisms for better stewardship of supporters, better integration with the different sources of data or, in my view, most importantly, data getting to the heart of the leadership teams to aid in decision making.

It won’t be the buying a new CRM system just because its shiny. Charities will buy CRM systems or invest in platforms but it will be or should be led by the types of insight about supporters and retention that you can get out of it. Today’s leaders don’t want to have to stick loads of spreadsheets together to get answers they want answers/questions and hints at the touch of a button.

Any CRM from 2020 that doesn’t think about reporting at the heart of the offering will, I think, miss where the sector is going and the struggles that the sector is facing. Connectivity will still be key and you’ll never hear me advocate for silos, I’m much more about collaboration and taking users on a journey.

So my recommendations for 2020 are:

  1. If you’re in a charity, think about what your data or teams don’t tell you and what would drive your organisation forward create a list, check it twice and let’s see what Santa brings!
  2. Be willing to test – as a true marketer testing is the key to success. Test, Test and Test Again!
  3. Education and Training – Investing in your workforce to understand data a little better can and should never be underestimated. Give data a voice! Data isn’t just in the Database team, it’s for everyone

Finally, my thanks go to the people who invested their time and effort to make the Insight Conference such a great day. It was inspiring and educating and I thank you and look forward to next years conference.