You could use the very big important words quantitative and qualitative, but whatever you call it, you need both to manage your donor relationships and see what your data is telling you.
This post from Nonprofit Quarterly helps define the value of tracking qualitative data – stories – which are difficult to standardize, but new tools make stories easier to store and track. Stories, anecdotes, and experience are commonly stored in our development teams’ heads, so bringing them into our database – and being able to use them – is not an easy task. And
“…for nonprofits, solving problems with data can be … a much tougher nut to crack when it comes to donors, who don’t usually express their desire to help as a problem to be solved—hence the even bigger impetus for nonprofits to understand their donors with words and not numbers.”Nonprofit Quarterly
In a more recent post, Idealware highlighted this Data Playbook site from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, observing
“…your nonprofit is probably not drawing on “big data” and it doesn’t need to. “Little data,” pocket-sized data about your org and its people is what you need. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming … It can be tempting to try to collect anything and “everything” and then sort it out later, but you’ll waste a lot of time that way and the chances are good you won’t learn what you need to know. The playbook tries to get you to focus on your strategic plan and build off of that foundation. The idea is that if you know what you’re trying to accomplish in your work and how you plan to accomplish it, you can measure your progress along the way.”
Finally, a more lighthearted look at database pitfalls, in this NTEN community blog post on How to Use Your Database to Ruin Productivity from Jim Willsey. “…Some organizations will actually create careful process documentation for their database, standardizing the way data is entered and retrieved. Sadly, those organizations end up saddled with best practices, wallowing around in consistent data all day, stuck with the monotony of the same workflow time after time.”
We hope you will view our free video presentation of one client’s story about tweaking their donor data and achieving measurable impact on their fundraising.