A Nonprofit’s Guide to Running a Successful Data Engagement: Get the Right People on the Bus

Part two of this 6-part series is written by Mark Daigle and Eric White, members of the WealthEngine Professional Services Consulting team.

In our previous post we discussed how using evidence-based metrics can improve your fundraising efforts. The first part in our blog series about setting up a successful data engagement covers getting the right people involved.

Who are the people that need to be on board from the very beginning? Make sure to include executive leadership, development leadership, and the IT or database administrators. Everyone plays key roles at various points in the engagement. Having buy-in from everyone from the beginning is key. It will also help managing expectations. Key stakeholders should fully understand the scope, milestones, and expectations of the project. This will pay dividends later.

Executive leadership needs to take a 30,000-foot view about what is necessary to make this process a success. They will be responsible for strategic oversight. It is important that the key decision maker supports the project and they understand the scope in terms of timeline and expectations.  Cross-departmental cooperation is critical, and executives who understand the need for continued communication will help keep the entire team on task.

Development leadership will help frame the purpose of a data engagement. They provide tactical decision making. Typically, the development or advancement team will be the end-user of the data to move fundraising efforts forward. Clarifying the specific goals of the project ensures that the right data and variables are included in the data file. For instance, a university might be trying to increase donations from their alumni. It would be beneficial to know things like when did they graduate, what majors did they study, and what (if any) extracurricular activities did they participate in? These elements may provide meaningful insight.

Involve your IT department in your data project, since they may be responsible for pulling files. Pulling a file from your CRM can often be a longer process than people expect. For example, you may have to merge information that comes from separate databases. The specific variables involved in your project may necessitate a special custom data pull. Your IT professional may have to perform some database cleanup prior to pulling data. The data managers often are the source for a data dictionary that will explain custom client attributes in the file. 

Every engagement is unique. The roles described above are performed by the same person or by many individuals. It is important to have all three roles on the bus as you kick off your data engagement project.

Join us for our next post which focuses on working backward to establish key deadlines.

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