Charities already hold a raft of data. We look at where it can be found and how it can be gathered to help charities improve
Data analytics is a vital weapon in charities armoury in their quest for improvement. Data analytics involves analysing information from supporters and stakeholders, to help boost donations as well as reach more beneficiaries, particularly those that have been hard to target in the past.
But developing robust data gathering does not mean charities need to carry out a root and branch overhaul of their operation. Most data is actually already within the organisation, held on existing platforms.
Here we look at where data can already be found, how to put that information to work, and any legal implications charities need to be aware of, particularly around consent.
Existing social media accounts are a mine of data. This approach of collecting data from social media sites and evaluating that data is more commonly referred to as social media analytics.
At its simplest level it can monitor engagement, such as retweets and number of likes. Digging deeper though it can analyse the quality of that engagement, including who is reacting favourably, or unfavaourably to social media content.
This can focus on ‘social media intelligence’, looking at emerging trends or ‘social media listening’ that involves deep diving into what supporters like and dislike. This can also involve segmenting audiences to find out what people of different ages and regions think of the charity, campaigns, and issues.
Using CRM analysis, charities can better understand and use the data that is already within the organisation. This includes segmenting customers into those who are most and least likely to donate and how much they may give. CRM also offers personal information about donors and supporters to personalise how charities contact them.
Data of those that sign up to charity campaigns, petitions, as well as register for online services is already stored by charities. This is another existing source of information to find out more about who is engaging and interacting with charities.
This includes gathering data from those registering and checking into events, including virtual conferences.
There are tools and platforms to help gather and process this information. This includes Enthuse’s donations events and fundraising tools. Another is idloom, which stores events in locations in Belgium that are fully owned by the company.
Across existing platforms charities clearly already hold a raft of data. But in order to use that data, all organisations need to ensure they are complying with data protection law and obtaining consent.
In the UK, this is through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was developed by the EU and has now been incorporated into UK data protection legislation following Brexit. Since the UK left the EU this sits alongside the Data Protection Act of 2018 in UK law.
When charities are processing and using data they must ensure they have a ‘legitimate interest’ to do so, according to the legislation. This is when the reason is lawful, fair and transparent, according to latest guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The ICO adds that good practice around obtaining consent “should be seen as essential to good customer service”.
It adds: “It will put people at the centre of the relationship, and can help build confidence and trust. This can enhance your reputation, improve levels of engagement and encourage use of new services and products.”
Other legislation and regulatory implications charities need to be aware of include the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which gives people privacy rights over their data used in electronic communications such as emails, texts and through cookies.
Cleaning data is vital for charities looking to process the information they already store on existing platforms. This process ensures the data is up to date and accurately reflects donors, beneficiaries and other communities charities interact with.
This process also ensures that marketing is more effective and return rates are kept low. A blog post from sector body CharityComms highlights how carrying out an audit and clean-up of databases can be highly beneficial. It also means data can be better structured and formatted so that it can be easily used by charities.
Spreadsheets can be used to arrange data, such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Taking time to freshen up data can significantly help charities to improve and better understand the data they already hold.