5 ways charities can effectively manage data (and why you need to do it)

Back to Blog
a tree by a glass building, representing charity dashboard

When it comes to the importance of data in the charity sector, we bang on about it a lot.

However, data underpins everything. It can enable you to understand your supporters and get to grips with what they truly want, need and value, help you to engage with your audience effectively, and strengthen donor relationships too.

Despite the importance of data, according to the 2023 Charity Digital Skills report, a third of charities found their fundraising database challenging, while nearly half said their biggest challenge was using data to inform decision-making and strategy.

We get it. Businesses today are drowning in data, especially charities who are home to a lot of data. From donation data to marketing data, there’s a lot of information to grapple with on your charity dashboard.

But the good news is that there are ways to manage your data, and there are tons of benefits to doing so too. Want to find out more about how to effectively manage your data and turn your insights into action? Let’s get going!

Why do I need to manage my data anyway?

If you’re currently struggling with analysis paralysis, it can be tempting to just bury your head in the sand and avoid the topic of data management altogether.

However, the truth is that there are numerous benefits to effectively managing and utilising your data; efficiency, budget allocations and financial forecasting, accountability and accurate reporting, long-term strategy, and of course, targeted communications, and improved fundraising activity.

We told you there were a lot of benefits! So, with that in mind, read on to find out how to filter out the noise, access the info that reality matters, and use it to unlock your fundraising potential…

5 ways to effectively manage charity data

1. Establish clear goals

If you are going to effectively manage your data, firstly you need to identify what it is you want to achieve and why.

You might want to increase supporter engagement – great, but what does that look like? Is it about boosting the lifetime value of your supporters? Extending your social media reach? Or about enhancing supporter retention rates and reducing churn?

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can begin to look at how you’re going to achieve it, the metrics you’ll need to measure success, and if you currently have any data you can use to help you reach your goals.

When you take a step back and identify what you want to achieve with your data, you can prevent the possibility of feeling overwhelmed and instead turn chaos to order and start to make sense of everything.

a woman working in nature, representing a tree by a glass building, representing charity dashboard

2. Make sure it’s usable

The fact is that the better your data, the better your decisions will be. The next step to successful data management involves making sure your data is usable and can deliver the insights you need.

From duplicate records and incomplete data to disparate systems and outdated datasets, there are many causes of so-called “dirty” data, all of which will have a significant impact on your ability to understand your supporters and get the most out of your data.

Great data is constructed from regularly cleansed, well-managed sources, which is why you need to audit and cleanse your data to ensure it is as accurate and trustworthy as possible.

By conducting a data audit and getting to grips with the state of your insights, you can make sure your data is reliable and minimise errors. Plus, putting data processing frameworks and data governance in place, ensures that you use high-quality data you can trust, and that all your decisions are based on a solid foundation.

3. Store it properly to enhance donor trust

Once your data is audited, you then need to ensure it is stored and managed properly. With data volumes increasing year on year, the possibility of mistakes grows too. Therefore, having a data management strategy in place is essential, especially as the world moves away from third-party data.

All the data in the world is basically worthless if you don’t follow the law, stay compliant, and respect donor information, which is why it’s paramount that you ensure your data is secure, compliant, and stored according to GDPR rules.

In addition, donors today expect transparency, and by effectively managing your data, you can demonstrate accountability and build trust.

And let’s face it: the more your supporters trust you to manage your data ethically and efficiently, the more likely they are to provide accurate information, giving you access to the information you need to make data-driven decisions.

4. Say goodbye to data silos

Of course, if you’re going to have access to the insights you need, you need to have a single view of your data that enables you to add value through transparency rather than storing your data in disparate systems.

Unfortunately, many charities still deal with siloed data, making it all too easy to lose track of vital data points and forget about essential insights.

However, with a CRM system, you can remove data processing bottlenecks, ensure total visibility across your charity dashboard, and make sure your data is easily accessible and your teams have instant access to essential information. This will empower them to draw real value from your data, easily.

5. Draw value from your data

When your data is clean, secure, and easily accessible, and you know what you want to achieve with it, the next stage of effective data management is to utilise that data and turn it into actionable insights that enable you to make informed decisions.

Through profiling and segmentation, predictive models, and data analysis, you can leverage your data to provide valuable insights that enable you to understand donor behaviour and identify emerging trends. This will allow you to provide structure and strategy to your programmes and ensure you are targeting the right people with the right asks.

When you use your data to inform your decisions, you can build in-depth donor profiles and create effective, donor-centric campaigns that engage with your supporters, strengthen your relationships with them, and maximise your fundraising.

Ready to get the most out of your data?

Here at Wood for Trees, we know a thing or two about data. As an award-winning analysis and systems agency we specialise in helping charities gain more from their data. So, if you’re looking for data expertise, you’ve come to the right place!

Our team of amazing analysts are a dab hand at modelling and presenting your data in ways that empower you to drive insight and action, so you can cut through the noise and access the information you need from your charity dashboard.

But we do more than just provide numbers; we’ll help you to make sense of your data, so you can provide structure to your programmes, inform your strategy, and target your supporters in the right way.

To find out more about how we can help you get the most out of your data, increase supporter engagement, and maximise your fundraising, contact us today to learn more.