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Beginner Reporting

Not all reports are reports

I’ve discovered that analytics and insight are two responsibilities of the database team that the teams either never get the time to properly concentrate on and thus take ages to deliver and are always misunderstood or what was required by the individuals asking for their analysis..

Depending on where you are in the organisation, for example, your level of responsibility will be determined by the database team’s expectations. It’s also difficult for database people to get enough time to understand the questions those people are attempting to answer. I’m currently working with one organisation where the fundraising teams are clamouring for analysis but the database team is struggling to deliver business-as-usual requests, so Reporting/Analysis/Insights suffers.

Anyway, the point of this post was not to highlight all of the difficulties; rather, it was to show how people requesting reports and people producing reports can work together to get the most out of each other.

Structured data is required by all organisations in various ways and for various purposes. Here’s some terminology to help you understand the various types of Reports:

  1. Lists – Some people require lists of supporters to function on a daily basis. For example, who is attending my event, who could I invite to this event, and to whom should I send my next appeal mailing? This is typically accomplished using a query tool, either within the database or by connecting to the database. Many people believe that this is a report, but it is not.
  2. Reports – Most CRM systems include a number of pre-built “Canned” Reports that cover the fundamentals. Some of these reports will address the issues on the list, while others will address financial or operational challenges that the organisation may face. Normally, a report will include Aggregation “rolled-up” numbers.
  3. Analysis – This is where we wake up database people (and sometimes get them excited) and try to engage them in learning more about our supporters. To begin, analysis can sometimes be done in Excel using a database extract and some magical formulas; more on this in a separate post. You may also have access to more powerful visualisation tools such as Power BI or Tableau. The discovery of information to answer questions such as, “What was my best recruitment method for this event?” When do the majority of my website visitors visit us, when do people of various demographics open our emails, and what works best? Packs A and B. As you can see, rolling up numbers and aggregations are required to clearly measure what is important. It’s not too difficult math as long as you understand the fundamentals; again, I feel another post coming on here.
  4. KRIs and KPIs are organisational indicators. KRIs are Key Reporting Indicators, which are useful to know even if we don’t have targets for them. For example, how many contactable people do we have on our CRM system? KPIs are Key Performance Indicators; the difference is that a performance indicator should always be accompanied by a target. For example, we anticipate bringing in X amount of revenue per team per month. We will sign up X number of people who have agreed to receive email communications from us.
  5. Insight – This is where we gain a deeper understanding of a problem and add narrative to show whether this is good, bad, or indifferent; it should essentially help with the AHA moments of looking at information, for example: only 25% of people donate to us using our website, but many more use the one-time donation process through our events fundraising platform. Our donation process workflow is inefficient and contains too many questions.

When it comes to analysis or insight, where data meets curiosity can be a powerful combination. It is also one of the reasons why fundraisers become frustrated with database teams. The database team has misunderstood or now because fundraisers have some piece of analysis they want to try a different thing and frustratingly on both sides it needs to go back into the database team to be rerun with new parameters which sometimes isn’t a 5 minutes process to just “Tweak”.

So here are my top three suggestions to make things easier for everyone involved:

Consider what you want: is it a report, a list, or something else? That way, you’ll know where you’re starting from and what skills you’ll need to produce it.

Determine and communicate the purpose of the analysis; database personnel will have a better understanding of the business need, and fundraisers will have a better understanding of the database if you know where and what data is stored in your systems.

Finally, don’t let reporting/analysis fall by the wayside. You’ll know what you want out of a system if you know what you want to put into it. If you’re planning a mailing or an event, or if you want to attract new supporters, consider what success looks like: the number of transactions, the value of those transactions, where people came from, and did they promise to give money/time. All of these things can be recorded in various ways, but only when database personnel are aware that it is necessary; adding it after the fact is never easy.