At a Glance
These days every organization is thirsty for a steady supply of nutritious data to help it grow and prosper. Studies show that companies using data analytics to make decisions see dramatic benefits including:
- Improved performance
- Faster decision-making
- Increased productivity
In this three-part series, we’ll dive into:
- Collecting data: What and how much data is important?
- Storing data: Is it secure? Is it easily accessible to those who need it?
- Using data: How can sharing data help grow your organization?
watering your organization: using data
By now your organization is gathering clean, pure data and securely storing only what you need. Now comes the really important step, using your data to grow your organization and work more efficiently. There are as many ways to use data as there are organizations out there contributing to the big data ocean. We typically employ two major data analysis strategies, both as we manage our own business and as we help our clients interpret the data report cards we create for them.
The Panoramic View – Strategic planning
The great thing about having data you trust is that it can paint a revealing picture of how your members or clients are behaving. Whether you’re in charge of the whole organization or responsible for a single department, using data analysis to plan for the future will help you chart a steady course.
At Billhighway, our call center is an integral part of all our products. We track, collect, and analyze call center data to help us make a variety of decisions:
- There is a clear pattern to our call center traffic so we know when call volumes will peak and can schedule staff to support those busy seasons. We schedule staff development days and special projects for slower times.
- Call center data also tells us which questions are best answered by phone and which by email. Through careful messaging via end-user portals, emails, and other materials, we make sure to communicate the phone number or email address that will best serve the customer’s needs.
- Call center data has even helped us improve elements of our products. When a significant
number of customers call in with the same question, we know there’s something we could be doing better.
- This could be a small change like renaming or re-positioning a button, or it could be a wholesale change that requires re-imagining a product feature.
Studying data patterns can provide critical insights when planning for the future.
You’ll be able to make investments in staffing or technology with more confidence when you use organizational data to anchor your reasoning. Gather data whenever you are faced with a major decision like changing your communication strategy or developing new products or programs.
Using data to understand potential members
Membership enrollment and retention is a major topic of concern for many of our association clients. The newest generation of members, the Millennials (age 18-33), are distinct in many ways from older, existing members. According to the Pew Research Center report Millennials
in Adulthood, young adults have high student loan debt and are putting off getting married, having children, and buying a house because they’re worried about their financial future.
At the same time, Billhighway’s 2015 National Benchmark Study of Greek Millennials revealed
that this generation of sorority and fraternity members is searching for meaning beyond getting
a degree and a job.
Our research also found that Millennials believe it is through experiences that they connect to other people, the community, and the world. With Millennials keeping a careful eye on their budgets, will they find room to pay member dues and attend industry conferences? They will if they see the impact of belonging and attending.
Offering tiered membership with a lower point of entry might attract more Millennial members. Creating meaningful, active events could help Millennials better connect with your organization.
In addition to price sensitivity and an interest in meaningful connections, the questions we asked about how Millennials pay for various services showed us something we hadn’t expected. Millennials living on the east and west coasts are more likely to adopt new technologies more quickly, which makes them great candidates for beta testing new products and programs.
Look both internally and externally to anticipate trends and prepare for a changing member,
customer, or donor climate. Studying the data landscape and applying it to your organization’s
thorniest issues can help you find new solutions.
78% of Millennials would choose to spend money on desirable experience or event over buying something desirable and 55% of Millennials say they’re spending more on events than ever before, with no signs of slowing.
Peaks and Valleys – Targeting problem areas
Data outliers are the high and low numbers in a data set that either stick up above the average or lag behind the rest. This could be a group of members who are consistently late in paying dues, a particularly high performing direct mail campaign, or a sudden spike in hits to your website.
“Encourage managers to look for the spikes and dips, then dig into the data to find out what went wrong or right. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the top 10% and bottom 10% in the data set you are reviewing.”
Lemons into Lemonade
When running an organization-wide expense report, the finance manager at a national association noticed that several of its state-based chapters were paying the same national vendor. Not only was the association able to negotiate a reduced-price contract to supply all its chapters, the finance department also began looking for other services that all chapters needed and that could be negotiated in a single contract that would reduce expenses for everyone.
Expect the Unexpected
At our Billhighway call center we analyze our call volume on a weekly and monthly basis for anomalies that could signal a problem. Blips and drops could signal an issue that needs to be addressed or could simply be an anomaly. Either way, we dive into the cause to find out what happened.
- Is a recent product update causing confusion?
- Did a new client recently come on board that needed extra attention from our Client Care team?
Sharing the harvest
Many organizations are instinctively protective of their data and security is certainly important.
However, sharing your data in meaningful ways can build better relationships among staff, membership, customers, and donors.
For each of our clients we create a value report that illustrates trends in member payments, expenses and other metrics. We use visual representations of that data to make it easy to spot changes and identify room for improvement. Then we sit down one-on-one with our clients to make sure they understand what their data means to their organization.
Associations can strengthen their community by sharing data with members.
- Which ten articles in your online publication earned the most clicks?
- Invite experts on those topics to speak at next year’s conference.
- Provide links to additional resources on these topics and share them in the next email newsletter.
- What changes will be made at next year’s conference as a result of the survey taken at this
Nonprofits are finding that donors want to know what impact their dollars will have whenever they’re asked to give.
- Share your impact in every social post and email blast in ways that tell the story visually.
- Turn your data into infographics so it’s easy to understand at a glance.
capturing data that’s good to the last drop
Getting a handle on your data can produce an organization with stronger roots and a bumper crop of new ways to grow, but too much of the wrong kind of data can leave your staff feeling swamped and overwhelmed.
Start at the source of your data and develop a plan to capture and clean your data, securely store only what you need, and then analyze it to help your leadership make data-driven decisions that feed your organization’s mission.