A Nonprofit’s Guide to Running a Successful Data Engagement: Work Backwards

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

We previously discussed the importance of having a successful data engagement and the value of having the right people in the room. Now we’ll discuss how you can work backward in order to develop a timeline.

Developing a realistic timeline is one aspect for having a successful data engagement. Know the end from the beginning. Work backwards from the close date of your campaign to determine key deadlines. Why are you conducting this analysis using data? Is the launch of a capital campaign approaching? Do you need greater efficiency in your mailing efforts? Or do you simply want insight into your donor’s capacity? Being clear on goals and objectives of your project is critical to realistic project timelines.

Once you know your campaign end date and begin creating your timeline consider any seasonality in your organization’s giving patterns. Include major holidays or scheduled leave for critical staff (ie. parental leave, etc.). These foreseeable interruptions must be accounted for.

Begin identifying key project milestones and where they fall in the project timeline. Milestones include a project kickoff meeting, pulling and preparing the data to send to your vendor, a quality control check by your vendor on data submitted, the completion of data screening and analysis by your vendor, holding a final project presentation meeting, and finally, ingesting the new data back into your CRM. Decide on fixed, but conservative, deadlines for all of the deliverables and milestones identified. 

Below is an example of a sample project timeline detailing key milestones:

1. Contract Signed September 1st
2. Introductory Contact Completed (3 business days) September 7th
3. Data Recieved from Client (4 weeks from contract signing) September 30th
4. Screening Completed (3 weeks from data recieved) October 21st
5. Modeling Completed November 11th – 30th
6. Onsight Completed December 14th
7. Follow Up Call &Strategy Report January 15th
8. Launch of Campaign February

Establishing an agreed upon timeline built backwards from a fixed campaign start date will help ensure the project is not derailed when (please note we did not say if) bumps in the road emerge. As we discussed last time, it’s important for all of the key stakeholders to agree to the timeline and the key deadlines. In our next blog, we will discuss the project hiccups that will inevitably occur, and how to handle them so they do not cause you to veer too far from your set timeline. 

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