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How to pivot away from old and bad data

Angela Hatem
July 14, 2020
How to pivot away from old and bad data

Just when you think we’re about to close out the pandemic chapter of our lives, you turn the page and alas, the saga continues. It’s been a hard road to navigate for organizations and industries across the world.

The not-for-profit sector has been hit especially hard by the virus's impact on the economy.  According to a recent study conducted by Reuters and Charity Navigator, in April and June, not-for-profits cited a 38% decrease in their charitable revenue. With some states once again seeing spikes and closures, it’s very possible the loss in revenue and resources will continue.

The not-for-profit landscape is changing at quick tick and “pivot” has turned into the official word of the decade. The tried and true ways of doing business are being tested.  Our standard mechanisms for fundraising and communication are also a bit out of sorts given the virtual and socially distant world we are now living in.

Pre-COVID, when you wanted to connect with a donor you could just set up a meeting, perhaps have a coffee and dish on the details. Or if you were looking to share messaging tied to a particular program, you might just send an email blast to your entire database.

Sadly, face-to-face isn’t possible at the moment, and with remote work people’s bandwidth for mass messaging is slim to none. To cut through the noise, communication and connection points need to be targeted, enriched, reliable and succinct.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to be targeted, reliable and succinct when your data is old, musty, and laying on an excel sheet on your desktop.

For most organizations — especially not-for-profits — data management has been one of those cans you can easily just kick down the road.

To be successful and sustainable in this new world order, it’s time to face the music and give data and it’s integrity a moment in the spotlight.

According to Mike Martin, Chief Customer Officer at 10K Advisors, data integrity is a common and relatable pain point for most organizations.

“Data often becomes a bottleneck in projects,” said Martin. “It’s also the thing that can be especially impactful to your personal and organizational success.”

Data is a huge beast to tackle, but with a little determination and these actionable steps, you have a fighting chance to wrestle this 600-pound animal to the ground.

Define success 

Before you start adding, deleting, and pulling out your hair, define what it is you hope to accomplish, and set a few small, yet attainable goals.

“Think of it as a process,” Martin advised. “It won’t be fixed overnight. Have an outline of baby steps of where you need to go and how you are going to get there.”

Commit the resources

Be prepared to get your hands in the muck, and get ready to spend some time digging.

“Technically these are hairy, messy projects,” Martin warned. “There is likely going to be an investment at some level. Perhaps it’s some money, but more often than not it’s a sizable investment from a time perspective.”

Enlist leadership buy in

“Buy-in at an executive level is very important with projects like this,” Martin said. “If you don't have the buy in and you don’t dedicate the resources you won’t get the results.”

Leadership buy-in is a must for any process change. To be successful, you need a champion of note to emphasize the importance of your project, as well as aid in organizational adoption.

Select your Data Steward

Every ship needs a good captain —  or in this case, a sturdy steward.

The Data Steward is the person responsible for the integrity and cleanliness of your data. Martin said  this person could be your system administrator or a subject matter expert within the organization. He recommended it be someone who knows your people, knows your organization and really can take on the ownership of keeping your precious intel clean.

Ditch the spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a great place to start, but they go rotten 20 seconds after you hit save, Martin said.

“Spreadsheets lack transparency, they don’t have the ability to create relationships past a single line and the fact that no one really owns them makes them difficult to utilize and maintain,” he said.

Spreadsheets are a hard habit to break, but with an integrated system like Salesforce, Salsa, Bloomerang, or Raiser’s Edge you have a better odds in the data integrity war of 2020.

Pivoting is challenging, and when it comes to data, it might even be a little painful.  But as the wise poet Jane Fonda once said, “No pain, no gain.”

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Angela Hatem

Angela Hatem enjoys piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and obviously yacht rock. When not checking her son's ears for wayward Cheerios, Angela contributes to parents.comlifehacker.comwellandgood.com, and Shondaland.com.

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