On October 18, 2023, BPM’s Nonprofit Education Series presented a webinar on how nonprofits can leverage data intelligence to make impactful decisions. In it, Megan Bohnke, Data Analytics Director, Kristen Oshiro, Data Analytics Senior Manager and Dylan Mead, Data Analytics Supervisor, discuss data literacy, governance and harnessing the potential of data and business intelligence (BI).
Challenges for nonprofits
Many nonprofits face challenges in optimizing data due to limited resources, data fragmentation, skill gaps and difficulties in measuring impacts. Engaging donors, navigating regulatory frameworks, managing organizational change and ensuring organizational buy-in present further obstacles. Fortunately, there are data collection and visualization tools for every budget, skill level and organization size. Given the right approach, even smaller organizations can access the benefits of AI without the need to hire specialized employees or buy expensive software products.
Data literacy is the ability to collect, manage, evaluate and apply data, ensuring users have the data they need and know how to interpret and leverage it. By harnessing data and creating a data-driven culture in which all members of the organization understand, trust and talk about data, nonprofits are empowered to make better business decisions, identify the impact of funding and grants, optimize their resources, and identify trends. This allows them to see what is and isn’t working and to take proactive measures that yield superior results.
The webinar hosts stress that while data visualization tools, such as Power BI or Tableau, are useful, less sophisticated tools like Excel can also generate very beneficial information. An organization’s choice of tool should be tailored to its maturity and cost appetite.
Data governance is the overall management framework and processes within an organization that ensure data quality, integrity and compliance with relevant regulations. Good governance puts high-quality, trusted, secure and discoverable data in the hands of the right users. It involves defining data policies, standards and procedures, as well as assigning responsibilities to various stakeholders to effectively manage and protect data assets.
Realizing the potential of data
Megan, Kristen and Dylan illustrate the practical application of data by sharing data visualization dashboards from actual companies, highlighting various methods of data communication and analysis.
Business intelligence enables nonprofits to achieve “quick wins,” such as cash flow forecasting, expense and revenue analysis, and budget versus actual reporting. It also promotes longer-term wins, such as integrated financial planning, benchmarking, profitability analysis, improved operational efficiency, continuous monitoring, predictive analysis, consistent integration and regular reviews.
Furthermore, BI provides tools for forecasting and modeling, offering insights into the interplay of operations, economic factors and an organization’s mission. Leveraging these tools, as well as other applications of artificial intelligence, can be done regardless of the size and available resources of any organization.
Benefits for nonprofits
Megan shares specific benefits of data intelligence for nonprofits during the webinar. These include predictive analytics that allow nonprofits to target potential donors, understand the ROI of specific programs relative to their operational costs, analyze churn to reduce donor attrition, and segment donors to customize communication and engagement strategies.
For nonprofits, effective use of data can enable more strategic decision-making, resource allocation and donor engagement. To learn more about harnessing the power of data and business intelligence effectively, watch a replay of Data-driven nonprofits: Empowering impactful decisions with data intelligence.