A Business Intelligence Strategy Helps Associations Succeed

 Isn't it time you found Business Intelligence software is needed to succeed?
As a Nonprofit Executive, your intelligence has to shine through the data you store in your donor, member, and/or events database. In this article, we wanted to explore the important aspects of business intelligence and how it can be viewed in nonprofits today.

 How often do you ask “What if” & scramble to find the answers? 

For forward thinking organization, when an association wants to know more about its critical operation, “THE WHAT IF”,  it will utilize various report writers to mine the data they have.  In most cases, a lot of massaging and even praying is involved, right? Often times (hopefully not today in your nonprofit) business intelligence information is delivered by spreadsheets, charts, graphs and more. Thankfully, today there are key  interactive features of business intelligence found today in most Association Management platforms designed for use in various ways including mobile devices.  According to an article  in CIO magazine, “BI should be sponsored by an executive who has bottom-line responsibility; has a broad picture of the enterprise objectives, strategy and goals; and knows how to translate the company mission into key performance indicators that will support that mission.” Generally speaking, the business intelligence software found in donor databases and membership systems will provide a basic understanding of your information assets and more possessed by the nonprofit. But, do you have confidence in the data? Do you know how to utilize the data to make sense of it? Does your organization have time to actually collate and make sense of it? Here are several considerations to chew on when thinking about business intelligence and utilization of it:

Goals Are Important here too!


A company needs to set goals and understand what they want from their database. After analyzing current operations a business intelligence plan with specific goals can be designed. Here is a funny depiction of the challenges today:

Are you lost and trying to find answers in your database? We can help connect you with solutions.

Data Agreement 

Continuous study and intelligent understanding of your organizational data empowers your entire management team. When a company is pursuing BI it needs to have all elements of the business in agreement of what it means to them. If the member department and finance department have two different understandings of what is defined as net gain, their numbers for the same item won’t match. This can be handled by a uniform set of definitions utilized by all sections of the business.

Member and Engagement Data Storage

Many companies start out today with a database which is cost-effective but can’t grow and change with the company. In essence, they move into an “Apartment” solution and grow into a new “Home”. A company needs to determine if they have a storage problem, a software report writer problem, or some other issue keeping them from obtaining the information they require to run their business better.  Suffice it to say, a data warehouse is challenging to design but many nonprofits today have a member or donor database. And, a database with a report writer, theoretically, is all an organization needs to start acting on the intelligence you have curated over the years.

Time and Expertise

As stated by Bear Analytics, a provider of data intelligence services, “Data is your organizational DNA”.  Your organization must get the most out of it’s data. For a nonprofit, this could include such things as revenue forecasting, member forecasting, attendee forecasting, & engagement knowledge and more.  But, like most nonprofits resources are limited in two critical areas: staffing and time. Because of this limitation, collecting, organizing and analyzing information often does not get adequate attention. Time, Expertise, and focus is paramount to find success in business intelligence.  If you are having a difficult time getting the data you need to make pin pointed decisions from your database system, perhaps it’s time to review a better way.

Contact us today and learn more about the solutions available and partners you need to succeed with your data today. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.



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What is Business Intelligence and Why Your Nonprofit Needs it!

Does your #Donor or #Member database provide useful intelligence?


It is surprising to many but sometimes nonprofit & association leaders, especially founders “on a mission,” do not think about their organization as being a business—but it is. In this article, we explore why the curation of data (business intelligence) is critical in nonprofits today.

But,we are a Nonprofit!

This is quite ridiculous to say, isn’t it? Every nonprofit organization must think like a business in order to survive. From the basics of paying employees appropriately and on time to the complexities of competing with other nonprofits for scarce donor and grant resources, nonprofits must be willing to think practically and strategically if they are going to be around long enough to make a difference in the world.

This is why it is important for leaders in nonprofit organizations to both know about business intelligence and be willing to make use of its tools when it comes to making important decisions.

The phrase “business intelligence” is about using a “decision support system” to aid in decision-making and planning, and it was created as part of the process of modeling how computers make decisions. The term was first used in 1958 by an IBM researcher, who realized that businesses could gain a critical advantage in leading action toward a desired goal when they took a look at the interrelationships between facts and aspects in an organization.

Today, business intelligence and analytics is an entire field, using the following methodologies to help organizations with their strategic planning, goal development and actions plans:

  • Measurement (these days often in the form of performance metrics which can gauge the effectiveness of organizational procedures and enhancements)
  • Analytics (building an analysis of processes within the organization to help support better understanding of the business and its performance)
  • “Enterprise” reporting (where “enterprise” means viewing the organization from a strategic perspective, as opposed to operational reporting on the success of certain operations)
  • Collaboration (getting unconnected areas of the organization to work together toward a common goal)
  • Knowledge management (using certain business tools to facilitate the adoption of critical business knowledge and insights with dashboards)

So what might this look like for a nonprofit association?

If you have a certain campaign that has been a part of the organization for years, you can measure its effectiveness over time, analyze what processes in your nonprofit are supporting the campaign, step back to make sure that this campaign supports the needs of the nonprofit now and in the years ahead, work to get full-organizational support for the campaign, and recognize how its value plays into marketing and communications for your organization’s mission.

True, business Intelligence is built into many nonprofit database software today, but are you using it? If you would like to discuss a few options and/or connect with a partner who can deliver a solution, feel free to contact us today.


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