This is the age of data. Lots of data. Every organisation of any kind and any size is constantly collecting data about customers or, in the case of the third sector, about donors, volunteers and members.

As long as you conform to GDPR data rules, you can amass and process data by the megabyte, gigabyte or even terabyte. The question, however, is what do you do with it, and how does it affect the path to digital transformation [link to new page, Demystifying Digital Transformation]?  

How do you collect data?

Everything that happens digitally leaves a record. That’s true of everything from phone calls, to emails, web visits, payments, subscriptions, sign-ups for events and so much more.

For some organisations, data collection is virtually entirely automatic and held within core systems. Others manually enter data into their systems after collecting it by paper or the spoken word. Where systems don’t speak to each other, data may be collected on one system before being entered manually or otherwise downloaded into another system.  

Why data quality matters

However you collect data, it has be accurate. Over time there is the extra challenge of keeping it up to date. In the case of membership records, for example, poor quality data can undermine the way you collect subscriptions and the way you communicate with members. That can mean financial loss and alienating key supporters. Ouch!

Is data at the heart of your organisation?

Putting data is at the heart of your organisation is a key priority for digital transformation. That involves looking after this precious asset with precision and care, and having the right tools for doing so. Effective NFP database systems share the key functions of:

• accurate data feeds into the core database

• regular data updates, ideally as close to real time as possible

• a single view of each member, donor or volunteer

• accessibility throughout the organisation (no silos!)

• the highest levels of security

• rigorous back-up functionality

In the real world, it’s a challenge for even the best resourced organisations to achieve flawless database management. For smaller NFPs, data systems might combine legacy systems with plug-ins and work-arounds. That’s not the end of the world. The important thing is to recognise the value of your data, and nurture it as well as you are able. And with the right advice you might find that you can make significant system improvements without breaking the bank.  

Why data security is essential

Data security needs the closest focus. Severe penalties can now be applied under GDPR for data breaches, and keeping to the rules is essential for maintaining the trust of everyone interacting with you. Trust and transparency is even more important for NFPs than commercial organisations.  

It’s worth considering a data audit [link to new page, Fundraising Data Review] to ensure that there are no weaknesses in your security set-up. Putting time and effort into fixing problems is so much easier before there are any calamities! 

People matter as well as systems

Regardless of the systems you use, you always need to be clear about who is responsible for managing your database. You may have the resources to employ full-time data experts, or you may need to rely on the experts outside of your organisation.

Cloud technology helps here. If you subscribe to cloud-based platforms like Salesforce or iMIS, you always have access to the latest releases of the software, avoiding the need for in-house teams to install and test upgrades. Likewise, cloud storage allows for fast and secure back-ups.

However, the role of digital owners within organisations is essential for laying down and implementing the rules for data usage, access and security. Data is simply too valuable to be left loosely unmanaged.   

Ten benefits of digital transformation

So, you’ve the best database system you can realistically achieve and you have the right people looking after your data assets. What can you do now?

Here are ten benefits of fuelling digital transformation with the right data systems:

  1. Access your system from any location
  2. Set up accurate reports and dashboards
  3. See a 360o view of donors, members and supporters
  4. Segment data for targeted communications
  5. Share information with stakeholders
  6. Schedule emails and other campaigns
  7. Automate data collection and processing
  8. Manage payments and financial reporting
  9. Empower your team with information and the tools to take actions
  10. Share ideas, feedback and plans throughout your organisation

All of which allows you to achieve better results faster. Accurate data also gives you more confidence in the likely result of your actions, as well as a basis for analysing what has gone well and what hasn’t. Who wouldn’t want to know that?

If you’d like to explore using data in the digital world, book a call now.

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