Data management for an organization intent on ending hunger in the U.S.

The Client

  • A faith-based advocacy nonprofit, organizing its members to act to end hunger in the United States and around the world
  • Manages tens of thousands of member and donor records
  • Leverages several integrated technologies to support its development, church relations, government relations, and advocacy operations

The Opportunity

This nonprofit came to us with two challenges: (1) all areas of the organization were suffering from poor constituent data quality; (2) they had difficulty staffing the data management role.

Without high-quality data from which to function, many staff members were limited in their ability to perform. They couldn’t develop and leverage the resources necessary to fulfill the organization’s mission at the highest level. And because the data was not reliable, trust in the centralized data management role at the organization had plummeted.

The organization was using common industry solutions for managing the flow of constituent and gift data, including The Raiser’s Edge and Luminate Online Marketing from Blackbaud and Dynamics SL from Microsoft. But the flow of data from one system to the next was highly problematic, compounding existing data quality challenges and leading to manual workarounds.

The organization knew there must be a better way to manage data at the organization. To find out how, they talked to Build.

The Solution

To address immediate staffing gaps at the organization, we applied a team-based approach that involved placing one of our data managers on-site with the organization and complementing that with some CIO-level perspective from one of our consultants.

These two individuals organized a cross-departmental team to quickly assess the organization’s data opportunities. They also optimized the current data management processes and tools to keep the organization running during the assessment.

Over the next 24 months, the organization made successful changes across the board, including:

  • Leadership: education for executives and managers on nonprofit operations, processes, data, and technology—to help inform future data management decisions
  • Operations: improvements to budgeting, project management, business knowledge, and technical skills
  • Process: business process analysis and improvement, including better definition of constituent types and engagement lifecycles
  • Data: dramatic reduction of duplicate records, improvements to the accuracy, completeness, and classification of constituent, gift, and activity coding
  • Technology: upgrading the core CRM (from The Raiser’s Edge to RE NXT) and replacing data integration tools (from native Blackbaud tools to better solutions from Omatic Software.

Documentation: Over 50 distinct opportunities of various types and sizes were presented to the organization—each including a risk/opportunity assessment, external costs, and internal levels of required effort.

Our on-site data manager, with additional support from other Build team members, worked collaboratively with the organization to execute these changes while also simultaneously managing the day-to-day data management functions such as gift processing, data quality management, reporting, and help desk support.

Over two years, the organization achieved all of the originally identified data management opportunities, plus many more that have emerged since the original assessment. We still provide ongoing data management support to the client through our Build Teams service.

The Results

As a result of our work together, the organization has achieved the following:

  1. A new cultural appreciation of the power and utility of high-quality constituent data, leading to clearer data management processes and greater diligence in execution across the organization
  2. A newly reliable set of constituent engagement data used to inform decisions, generate an improved funding position, and increase mission fulfillment
  3. A thorough understanding and ownership of the way data flows through the organization, from initial encounter with a prospective constituent through the entire relationship with that person or organization
  4. A data management function with strong nonprofit operations and technical expertise, able to make continuous improvements
  5. Clear and actionable data process documentation and policies, with clearly defined expectations
  6. A newfound institutional support for the data management function
Church Steeple