Digging into your data

Data visualisation has come a long way in the past 25 years since I first made a chart in an excel spreadsheet. There are a number of tools available to help you to visualise your data or to do it for you like Actually Data Analytics ADRFM suite. The challenge remains though that if you don’t know how to read, interrogate and understand your data then you’re not maximising it’s potential.

My 5 year old can look at a bar graph and say which number is the highest or look at a line chart and tell me that the line is going up or down, but to make these charts truly useful we need to be able to dig into the reasons behind these numbers. Once we understand the reason for certain trends we can then use this information to make informed decisions about how best to use budgets to maximise the desired results in the future.

Some fundraisers and Database managers will be able to tell you fairly accurately the numbers which a chart will show, before you’ve created the report, but even these people still find some interesting revelations when digging into their data using ADRFM.

Here is an example report showing the number of individual payments per quarter.

The scale is altered to start at 36,000 which over emphasises the difference between the columns.

We know that more payments were made in Q2 but without more detail as to why that’s not really that useful a piece of information.

Here is the same chart but broken down into two levels. Here group Y are Regular payments and group X are One off payments.

Now we can see that the Blue columns for group X have an increase in Q2 and group Y increase in Q2 & Q3.

This could be a seasonal effect with more annual donations during the summer or Christmas period or due to a particular campaign or event maybe. To find out more we’ll have to dig a little further still.

Here is our chart one final time, this time we’ve broken down the columns by ACORN categories. Now we can see that the increase in Q2 is largely driven by people whose postcodes are in the Rural Residents group. So we can use this information to target these areas again in future campaigns.

The next steps would involve looking at each of these groups in detail to understand if particular campaign were effective/ineffective, to see which payment methods and channels each group favour and how likely are they to make another payment. Is that second gift to the same type of campaign & product or are they susceptible to other products and opportunities?

As a data geek, I could spend hours (and on occasions have), looking into various combinations to look for trends and patterns, hidden golden nuggets of detail which the database will give up to me. This research can be invaluable, but there is always a risk of going down a rabbit hole and losing hours to find so much detail that the marketing team will need to segment the next mailing 250 different ways to make the most of it, which in most cases isn’t practical.

Of course there are a number of different ways we could have looked at the data. Age and Gender have in the past been the most common ways of breaking data down. Although base Genders can be derived from most titles it doesn’t always help and targeting genders is not as straightforward as it once was perceived. Similarly ages are often looked at, but in most databases less than 5% of contacts have supplied their age or D.O.B. so the sample can be misleading.

Most contacts will have an address, so postcode data can be used for a good sample set. There will always be some anomalies when generalisations like this are used, but it’s a fairly solid platform to start from.

Tools like ADRFM, when used correctly, can help us to quickly identify groups and trends which we can practically use for future decision making, making our communications more effective and helping to maximise the return on our spending.


Raiser’s Edge Reporting Suite

Have you struggled with getting reports from your CRM system in the format that you need to do your job?

There are lots of canned (pre-defined) reports in CRM systems, these are the reports that are pre-built that get you started with reporting. In Raiser’s Edge (RE) for example, there are things like a new donors’ report, an appeal performance report, and the like. These reports are good at getting you started in understanding your system. What they are not, is flexible. You cannot change the fields or add fields easily to a report. Historically you would be able to build custom reports using Crystal Reports in Raiser’s Edge but now, unless you have your own license for Crystal that functionality has been taken away and do not get me started about the pivot report functionality which again you have to now do in excel native rather than within RE, this really annoyed me when it happened.

With Blackbaud having an open API and a power BI Connector, we’ve used this to pull data out of Raiser’s Edge and transform it into our reporting suite. This helps you get started with strategic reporting rather than the reports that you need for your day to day work. Reports that you need for your day to day work should be handled by the CRM eg Action Reminders, Missed instalment reports. What we’re trying to help uncover is the higher level reporting that will help you find out more about your work and the supporters you have. Here’s an example of our KPI Report. This is one page from our suite of nearly 20 pages.

KPIs Tiles from our RE Lite Reporting suite

One of the things that you don’t get with canned reports is colour and having worked with fundraisers for a long time now, I understand that they are visual people, so we’ve introduce some basic colour into our reports. I’ll always remember fondly the person who told me whilst I was running a training course on Raiser’s Edge “I’ll only use it if it can be in hot pink” I showed her how to change the colours and wrote down what she would need to do to change it back!

If you’re using The Raiser’s Edge NXT then you can also work with the SKY APIs for this reporting suite means that not all the fields are available for reporting on, the challenges that some of you face with reporting still exist in Power BI just because you can’t access the data e.g. Prospect Status changes don’t exist in an export in RE and that’s the same for the APIs at the moment. The other great thing with APIs is that it means it can be updated automatically and on a schedule without the need for waiting for the database team to refresh the data or even worse waiting for laborious exports and queries to run from RE.

So if you’re using Raiser’s Edge and are frustrated with the reports that you get from the system, or don’t have someone who can create reports for you get in touch and we can talk about our solution in more detail and show you what you can uncover.

If you’re using something other than Raiser’s Edge, we’ve got you covered too, but we may need to export data to get you up and running. Let’s talk and see what’s possible.