Commentary: Does your nonprofit have the skills for data-informed fundraising?

Beth Kanter on her blog, 9/6/12

The September, 2012 issue of the [Nonprofit Technology Network's online journal] NTEN:Change is pure crack for nonprofit #datanerds.   But if you read the articles in this issue, you will come to conclusion that loving (and using data) for strategic decision-making is becoming a must-have skill and competency for nonprofit success.  Does your nonprofit have those skills? I couldn't help but think about the skills sets and competencies nonprofits will be need in the future.  Like the evolving field of "data journalism" will there be a new breed of fundraisers?   A data analyst on the fundraising team?  Maybe for larger organizations, but for smaller nonprofits there will be more professional development opportunities [which] will include data analysis skills and tips for getting started. Is your organization making use of public data for organizational strategy decisions?  Do you have a data analyst on staff or have staff been trained in these skills?  Maybe this idea is new or maybe you've been hearing about it, but not sure how or where to begin?   The first step is go download and read the new issue of the NTEN Journal.


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FROM TC: Here are excerpts from the Sept 2012 issue of NTEN: Change.

[note: free online registration is required in order to view this issue on your computer, iPad, or iPhone]


Two new online resources for data-driven fundraising

Peter Panepento, Asst. Managing Editor, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Would your development office be more efficient if it had access to detailed information about giving habits by city, state, and zip code? Would the nonprofit world be better served if someone

tracked how much money was raised online each quarter and analyzed how online fundraising results changed over time? Until recently, such information did not exist online. But with a pair of new tools built by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the nonprofit world now has access to these valuable figures. In August [we] unveiled How America Gives, a powerful online tool that allows users to dig into detailed geographic data about how much money Americans give to charity ....[using] a little-known IRS database that spells out how much money individual taxpayers claimed on their federal tax returns for charitable tax deductions in 2008. But rather than just storing these numbers in a flat database, we mashed them up with geographic data from a number of other sources and used these numbers to fuel a tool that gives users the ability to search, visualize, compare, and share these data. This was a major step forward for The Chronicle. And we're already on to our next big project -- working with partners at Blackbaud, PayPal, and Network for Good to create a new index of online giving. Later this month, we'll debut the index, which pulls together information about online giving that previously had only been gathered and released by each of these organizations individually. The quarterly online-giving index will track almost every dollar that is contributed to U.S. charities online and will eventually provide the nonprofit world with a treasure trove of data about online giving habits over time. We also think that it will give the nonprofit world something that has been previously impossible to find in a systematic way -- current data about giving. Until now, most of the national-level data collected about giving has been a year old or more -- as most charities wait until the annual release of their Form 990s to share information. With the quarterly index of online giving, we'll be able to share national-level data mere weeks after it is collected. In time, we expect that we'll be able to see if the online numbers can be used to forecast or estimate the quarterly results for all of the money collected by charities both online and offline.


Free data visualization tools

For nonprofits that need to communicate complex or difficult-to-conceptualize information to donors, funders, constituents, or governments, data visualization is a valuable tool to convey

information impactfully and immediately. These formats also allow for sharing among audiences. When you need to spread the word about an advocacy issue or your impact, a visually

appealing infographic or a "cool" dynamic data visualization is more likely to be passed on from person to person via social media than a PDF report.... While we want to emphasize that there's no simple "button" you can push to create the perfect infographic -- the process involves planning, selection, design, and then circulation -- here's a quick list of a few free online tools that can help you implement your infographic strategy:

* Starting from a virtual "canvas," lets you customize their pre-existing themes with drag and drop images, background colors, and add custom text with your data. Its strength is that it provides you with the many images and shapes common in infographics, but you'll need to come with the vision and the time to select and arrange the graphics appropriate for your data.

* A free "in beta" tool, provides templates to create infographics that can then be embedded directly onto your website. The other great feature is the Load Data button, which gives users the option to import their data directly from an Excel or CSV file.

* tableau public: Is desktop software that visualizes your spreadsheet data to let you visualize your data with graphs and maps. One great feature is that it allows you to play with your images as you go, deciding which data you want to include and how. You can then combine various graphs and maps to create a dashboard that features them all. The free version is limited to 50 MB of data storage.

* Is primarily a community for data visualization designers, researchers, and publishers, and a platform for sharing your own data visualizations. It's a great place to connect with designers, see what data visualizations are already out there, or find examples for inspiration. While the site does have a creation tool, it is limited to Twitter and Facebook data templates: you can share your Twitter and Facebook account stats and convert them into infographics using their templates.


5 tips for getting started with Google Analytics

Tina Arnoldi, Coastal Community Foundation

Installing Google Analytics on your website shows where web traffic comes from and what visitors do once they arrive. Although the GA Installation Guide offers steps for installation, it doesn't provide pointers for using it well. Below are five tips for using Google Analytics to make better decisions.

1) Set up multiple profiles from the start. You'll want one that collects raw data (so you won't worry about lost data). You should also have a separate one that excludes IP addresses for office and remote staff.

2) Create goals with your desired website activity in mind. You'll want to think beyond page views. Think of goals as action steps on your website. What do you want visitors to do once they arrive?

3) Note any surprise referral sources. Are these potential community partners with an opportunity to cultivate a relationship? Or perhaps there's a misunderstanding of how your organization works and the referring site needs to edit their copy about you.

4) Be prepared to make some website edits as a result. Is there one page where there's a very high bounce rate? Does that page have contact info, pictures, a "donate now" button, event registration, etc? If you have too many elements on a page, you won't know what's causing the bounce and therefore what to change. Try testing some changes to see if the bounce rate decreases.

5) Are you receiving visitors from links in your e-newsletter? If not, check the links to make sure they're working (and trackable). If they are working and you're not seeing any site traffic from them, review your content and calls to action. You may not be giving readers what they want or providing a reason to follow links to your site.

There are many things you can track with Google Analytics, but the important thing to remember is that you're using the tool to make better informed decisions about your website and the content that drives people to it. You might also be interested in this 40-minute video online where I talk further about using Google Analytics.

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