Barriers and breakthroughs in data

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Welcome to The Non-Prophets Podcast from award-winning data analysis and systems agency, Wood for Trees. Join Consultant Analysts, Rob Dyer and Stephen Brown, as they debunk myths, unravel challenges and discover opportunities using data and insight, particularly in the not-for-profit sector. In each episode, they explore the latest trends and their musings with other data experts and sector stakeholders.

In this first episode, Stephen and Rob interview Wood for Trees’ Managing Director, Jon Kelly. Alongside a rather eclectic career history, Jon has over 15 years’ experience working with charity data, which all began after playing a game of pool and sipping a pint of beer with a friend one evening…

During this time, Jon’s seen a huge amount of change in the not-for-profit sector. Using data was relatively new back then and Wood for Trees fundamentally helped charities get up to speed. Now, many charities have data teams in-house and use data in more sophisticated ways – we like to think we’ve played a part in that shift!

Jon believes the use of data and related technology will continue evolving, offering many new opportunities, with machine learning and data science coming to the fore along with increasing use of predictive modelling and marketing automation.

However, questions asked now are often still the same. Charities still want help understanding their supporters and how to communicate with them better and often barriers to data are internal within organisations. Jon recommends rather than striving for perfection, start working with the data and systems you’ve got.

Jon, Stephen and Rob discuss data gatekeeping by third-party platforms and the sharing of data and insight. Whose data is it, in the first place, to gain access to? Jon believes these barriers are beginning to come down and the benefits of sharing data are becoming more understood.

Wood for Trees’ State of the Sector Reports share insight from the innovative InsightHub charity benchmarks and indicate a positive picture over the last few years. Charity income has grown across the sector despite challenges and motivations to give are still there, even in the cost-of-living crisis.

Data analysed and shared within organisations offers proof points to move forward – whether that’s to prove what you can do or can’t do. For example, it’s been proven that by asking less from donors you can get more by being more strategic with what you ask of them. But to get the best out of data, knowledge sharing and building confidence is key at all levels and roles within the sector.

Not only is there a changing demographic with donors, but there’s also a changing demographic within the not-for-profit workforce. Younger, more tech savvy people who’ve been brought up with digital and social media bring a huge amount of opportunity to the sector but it’s also important to strike a balance between new innovations versus tried and tested methods in decision making, diversifying and driving revenue.

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