Confessions of a Former Nonprofit IT Director: Data Mania

Submitted by Annaliese on Fri, 09/14/2012 - 8:35am

[Editor's note: The following is from the September 2012 issue of NTEN:Change. This is a regular series in the nonprofit leadership journal. Read current and past issues by subscribing to the journal for free!]

By N.P. Techie

Welcome back to “Confessions...” Just a reminder that this column is meant to be a humorous and insightful “behind the scenes” take on what the people who are formally or informally responsible for technology at your organization are thinking and feeling. As always, no executive directors or board members were harmed in the writing of this article.

Since the current issue of NTEN:Change is all about data, we thought that we’d take a look at some types of metrics that you could be (or already are) measuring at your nonprofit right now, or else you’re falling behind the “data-driven” curve and could be ridiculed for not having a logic model, (and will therefore never have any positive impact on the world, ever).

1) Total number of people who put a smiley face on your Facebook wall on Tuesday mornings because they saw a cat video.

This metric clearly indicates how many people were in a good mood because they saw your latest kitten post on your organization’s Facebook page (by accident when they came to work and logged into FB that day). And because they’re now happy people, they will then spread the joy to their friends and coworkers for the rest of the week and BOOM! by Friday you’ve made the world better. Nice weekly impact!

2) How many people attended 3 or more events in the last fiscal year that started with the letter S and then donated $100 or more?

This metric clearly indicates that you’d better start scheduling some Splendid Suppers! Those will predict your future fundraising returns, and you’ll be guaranteed to bring in the cash for that capital campaign you’ve been working so hard on. Stupendous!

3) Total number of minutes it will take to get all the cash out of the bank if the zombie hordes attack right now!

The board requested this metric as part of their disaster planning work with you (in case that isn’t immediately clear). I’m timing you right now. Ready? ….GO!

Okay, so all these metrics aren’t real, but they could be, and we’ve been asked for some pretty ridiculous data in the past.

It’s very important to involve your IT staff in discussions about measurement and impact, even if you think they might not have anything to contribute. Let’s face it: these are typically people who eat, sleep, and breathe data! They love to have conversations about numbers, and they may be able to point you to things that you didn’t even know you could measure, and just as importantly, tell you what can’t be measured…yet.

(Note: You can read the entire September Issue of NTEN:Changeonline for free -- and you might want to get your executive director and board to subscribe to it!)

What are some of the most surprising or difficult metrics that you've been asked to come up with? How did you approach it? Please share your stories and tips below!