Whether as a stand-alone product or bundled with information management solutions, which nonprofit data analysis tools are the most likely to offer success? Which are easiest to master, and how much can you expect them to cost?
Nonprofits are eager to use data analysis to advance their efforts and to understand what gaps they have in their data that jeopardize effective analysis of their work and outcomes. A good data visualization can be the key to telling the story to donors, policymakers, and the public.
Our clients are increasingly asking for better, more intuitive, visual reporting and analysis tools. Frequently, the first thought in their minds is Tableau—a market-leading data visualization tool. This is largely driven by Tableau’s product excellence and friendliness to the nonprofit space—combined with Tableau Public’s very low cost. Tableau is indeed an excellent product, and well worth any nonprofit’s consideration.
Some information (data) management systems used by nonprofits are already bundled with well-designed nonprofit data analysis tools. In a recent survey of case management systems for a national nonprofit client, we learned that each of the market leaders in this product category has some level of integration with a third-party reporting and data analysis tool, including such offerings as SAP Business Objects and Microsoft Reporting Services.
Gartner has recalibrated their Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics definition to take into consideration the prevailing market needs and how those needs will evolve. This has resulted in strong showings for three vendors in the “Leaders” category: Tableau, Qlik, and Microsoft Power BI. Many nonprofit clients will have heard of Microsoft Power BI, which is promoted in association with Office 365, SharePoint Online, or Dynamics. Microsoft has also made a limited version of the Power BI platform available for free, no doubt to place it in closer competition with how Tableau introduces itself to first-time users. Qlik has come up in conversations with clients.
Bottom Line: Nonprofit Data Analysis Tools
Tableau and Power BI are well positioned within the market to be accessible to new users, with easy-to-use features and the customer support to help users reach a basic level of proficiency in their products quickly. The combination of a good product and a large user base increases the likelihood of successful adoption within a nonprofit organization.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Tableau or Power BI is the best tool for every use case—each nonprofit must conduct its own evaluation/selection based on its unique business requirements. But the systems mentioned here should be included as candidates in nearly all selection projects when a nonprofit is looking for a data analysis tool.
Clarify Your Needs and Understand the Market Before Selecting a Nonprofit Data Analysis Tool
Looking for good data analysis software can be a confusing process, because the major players all have relatively low barriers to entry. You can become comfortable with a tool that doesn’t fit your needs the best because it was the easiest to learn or the cheapest to try. The most important thing to do before embarking on any selection effort is to clarify your own needs—and how they align with the solutions available in the market—as part of a selection process. Take advantage of the low entry bar to have the staff involved try the products for fit—but make sure to understand the business needs these tools address and don’t forget to evaluate these tools periodically as your needs and the products evolve. And if your information system platform includes built-in data analysis and visualization tool that integrates with your data—you may not need a third-party data analysis at all.
Need More Expertise?
Ready to have a conversation about your software selection process? Or perhaps you are looking for an assessment and roadmap to ensure your organization is considering software investments with long-term strategic value. Whatever your nonprofit technology consulting needs, Build is here to help.