Wisdom Wednesdays: How Does Your Data Compare?

by Jon Nelson

The past two weeks we have enjoyed posts on data analysis from Heather McGinness — “When an Analyst Calls” and “When an Analyst Calls Back.”  In these posts, she discusses the importance of data analysis as it is vital to determining the health and status of an organization.  So, she asks, “Have you checked the data?”

I hope you’ve started to check your organization’s data, if you hadn’t been doing so already.

Nelson-Jon-webBut, simply comparing your data against your own data — just looking at how you’re doing this year compared with previous years — only tells part of the story.  To get the full picture, it’s imperative to check your data against industry trends and statistics.  You can do just that, for FREE, with the Executive Summary of “Giving USA 2012: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2011,” produced by Giving USA and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (some of the speakers at the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference will be from the renowned Center on Philanthropy, and many who worked on the report are previous or future ALDE speakers).

Why is this so important?  It helps you understand and act on development trends.  It can explain why your organization has seen downturns in corporate giving, or increases in bequests.  For example, the report states, “Giving by bequest increased an estimated 12.2 percent (an 8.8 percent increase adjusted for inflation) to $24.41 billion in 2011.  The share of giving by bequest from itemizing estates was 85 percent of the total.”  Meanwhile, it shows that giving by corporations was relatively flat during the same period.

What does this mean?  Paying attention to giving trends helps you and other organizational leaders most effectively direct finite resources.  If there are funding sources that seem to be drying up, such as corporate giving, it may not make sense to focus staff time there.  It could be better to spend time and money working to obtain support elsewhere (bequests).

First, compile and check your internal data.  Then, compare that data against the field.  This is essential as it will assist you in ensuring your limited resources are directed to their best use.  Plus, when constituents see your care and concern with their money and potential gifts, that will encourage future giving.

To download the summary, you will be asked to provide some contact information and to “Check Out,” but it’s well worth it.  At the end of checking out, click “Pay Now.”  You won’t have to pay anything, but it just gets you to the next screen to download the summary.  If you have issues, there is a troubleshooting page that will help answer some questions.  If you still can’t download the report, contact me.

Now you are checking the data!  But how does your data compare?

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.

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