When it comes to effective decision-making, accurate data is the most powerful tool at your disposal. According to a PwC survey, over 1,000 senior executives found highly data-driven organizations are three times more likely to report improvements in decision-making compared to those who rely on minimal data.
Regardless of your industry, data should back every decision, so how organizations collect, manage, and analyze data will directly influence their outcomes. In the case of nonprofits, GivingDNA’s nonprofit analytics guide states that “data analytics helps nonprofits identify broad patterns among donors, track changes, and spot opportunities for growth.”
However, many organizations struggle to tap into the power of these rich datasets and end up making uninformed, costly decisions as a result. To avoid this pitfall, you can partner with an analytics provider and uncover key insights that revolutionize your strategy.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the top non-negotiables to look for when researching an analytics company, so you can choose one that complements your goals. Let’s get started!
Expertise and experience
When looking for an analytics provider, prioritize one with a proven track record of experience. Specifically, they should have extensive knowledge of the nuances related to your industry. For example, healthcare analytics providers need to be well-versed in EHRs, claims management, and population health management data.
For nonprofits, this means finding a provider that exhibits knowledge of CRM platforms, fundraising analytics, corporate giving, and/or prospect research.
In general, there are a few key indicators you can rely on to assess a company’s expertise. These include:
- Impartial third-party reviews: Research third-party sites for professional perspectives on similar providers. Sites like softwareadvice.com and G2 are informative resources that provide a quick summary highlighting recommendations, awards, and pricing. Software users often leave reviews that can give you a more in-depth look at pros and cons for each provider.
- Use cases: Dive into specific use cases or testimonials mentioned on a provider’s website. Look for organizations that mirror your cause, size, or vision. How did the provider meet or exceed their needs? If you have additional questions, reach out to current customers and ask for their opinion — are they satisfied with the provider? Would they recommend a different option?
- Software demos: Once you’ve narrowed down your list, consider requesting a software demo to see a provider’s offerings in action. These can be especially useful to visualize complex functionalities and decide if a solution will be user-friendly for your nonprofit.
Though not as essential, thought leadership can be another telling indicator of a provider’s expertise. If they keep their blog roll updated, provide a video series, or host a podcast, these are signs that they are attuned to your industry’s shifting environment. Therefore, they might be more reliable when it comes to keeping your database updated with the newest technologies.
Strong data protections
Nonprofits handle sensitive data such as donor details, beneficiary information, and financial records. The mishandling of this information can lead to significant legal consequences and a breach of trust.
Safeguarding against these outcomes begins with selecting a provider with strong protections. Ask these questions to ensure your provider practices these precautions:
- Are they compliant with data privacy regulations? Data privacy regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, and other relevant legislation help protect vulnerable data. Failing to comply with these laws can lead to irreparable repercussions, like a loss of audience trust.
- What data security measures do they use? No organization is immune to cyberattacks. Encryption, user authentication, and intrusion detection systems protect against hackers and other cybersecurity threats.
- Have they had any significant breaches? A provider can boast strong data security, but their track record will indicate whether their technology is vulnerable or not.
It’s better to determine a provider’s security measures beforehand than risk partnering with a company that has weak protections. Maintain and cultivate your community’s trust by choosing a company with secure data handling capabilities.
Relevant tools and technologies
Effective data analysis requires relevant and intuitive analytics tools. Look for a provider that can sufficiently organize and compare large data sets with user-friendly applications. Then, compare their capabilities to your organization’s needs. For instance, an organization looking to refine its matching gift functionality might look for corporate giving software with advanced autosubmission to streamline its internal processes.
As a starting point, identify analytics providers with the following capabilities:
- Customization. Assess their ability to cater to your organization’s individual growth needs. Avoid choosing a provider with a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, look for a provider that allows flexibility in marketing communication, team coordination, and fundraising analysis.
- Integration. Analytics tools need to be able to integrate with multiple additional solutions, including databases, spreadsheets, cloud services, and external sources. Look for a provider that can reduce manual data handling for faster analysis. Additionally, identify providers that offer data enrichment capabilities such as demographic appends to support your outreach efforts.
- Reporting. Reporting integrations can help access key insights. Consider providers that have extensive reporting capabilities such as interactive dashboards or speedy ad hoc reporting. For example, Arcadia’s healthcare dashboards illustrate how data can be visualized to empower decision-makers.
- Collaboration. Make sure to choose a company that promotes seamless collaboration between teams with a user-friendly interface. This includes data sharing and export, access controls, and real-time notifications to foster a culture of data-driven decision-making.
Consider fleshing out each of these capabilities in more detail to align with what your organization wants to achieve. That way, you’ll find a provider who can offer the best ROI. With this in mind, you should still prioritize finding a provider that will support your growth long term. This means their infrastructure should be able to handle increasing data volumes and quickly resolve any future bottlenecks you may encounter.
Support and maintenance
Especially if your organization is new to analytics tools, choose a provider that offers helpful support you can rely on to get you up and running and answer any questions along the way. See if they offer any training videos, help hubs, or other online resources you can reference.
In some cases, there are online communities of users who can walk you through implementation speed bumps with helpful tips. Other times, providers will offer eTraining options and libraries to fill in any knowledge gaps or explain new features. These online resources can help you get the most out of your data analytics and make changes that will set you up for future success.
Data analytics providers can help your team make strategic decisions that benefit your operational health. Choose a provider that not only has a great reputation but also meets your organization’s data management needs. This means prioritizing features that further meaningful collaboration and profitable analysis.