Data Management,

It’s not that small and resource-constrained organizations don’t know they need data-driven insights to grow and prosper. They most certainly do.

But as integrated marketers will attest it’s difficult to effectively collect, format, manage and share all that information when you’re wearing 20 different hats.

So acknowledges non-profit marketing pro Sean Chisholm, whose data-handling advice for lean-running organizations of all types is summarized below.

Collect It in a User-Friendly Format

Difficult-to-use data is easy to ignore, Chisholm says. A company’s best laid plans for organizing and uniformly formatting information can fall by the wayside when workers get busy. Busyness aside, however, Chisholm recommends that everyone involved in gathering data use the same collection and formatting methods to make sharing and collaboration easier.

If you don’t have a fancy software package, use your standard spreadsheet, word processing and presentation applications. Just make sure documents and reports are similarly formatted. We would also recommend creating a consistent file-naming-and-dating convention to avoid confusion during storage, retrieval and analysis.

Establish a Data-Aware Culture

If collecting data and making it user-friendly is a priority for company leaders, it will also be so for staff. Start with a strategy, identify which trends or insights you want to extract, and gradually integrate data gathering into everyday operations. Of course, it’s all well and good to talk about data awareness and adoption. But concrete steps are in order if the effort is to be taken seriously, which leads to Chisholm’s third recommendation.

Appoint an Adopter-In-Chief

“To inspire action, you need to free up one or two people who can own data adoption,” he says. “This can be difficult…but failing to assign ownership to data enablement is a recipe for stagnation.” You may not be able to put someone on it full time just yet, but you can make some progress by assigning specific tasks that include clearly defined deadlines.

Crawl, Walk, Then Run

In the quest to become truly data-driven, slow and steady wins the race. Start simply and be realistic. Acknowledge that becoming better at collecting, formatting and mining data is a process that harried and hurried teams won’t likely master (or even take to) overnight. But being patient and persistent–while setting goals and providing the necessary time and tools–are great ways to gain traction.

And speaking of tools, Google offers an entire set of them especially for non-profits, including a YouTube Program that offers special modules and overlays to support development appeals and educational outreach.

Before heading over there, however, you might want to first review our archive of non-profit marketing tips, which features field-proven ideas for data segmentation, publicizing events with signage, and formatting data for internal and client presentations.


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MarketingTango is the leading online resource for integrated marketing. The blog covers a wide range of marketing tactics and their place in an integrated marketing strategy. Regular postings will include articles, ideas, tips, and real-world solutions to help companies of all sizes achieve their business objectives.