Jan 28, 2015

The Power of Hand-Crafted Analytics

By: Bill Jacobs


I know this blog is going to sound completely self-serving, but humor me for a moment and read on.

In my own blog I’ve talked a lot about the broken promises of CRM in the nonprofit space. Just this week I was working to pull data from an expensive CRM system. After days of trying to figure it out how to do it within their system, we ran out of time and they exported a flat file to me and I loaded it up into my trusty SPSS and did the project the old-fashion way, or what I call “hand-crafted analytics.”

And doing the project this way reminded me of another limitation of CRM.

In my view, analysis is an iterative process. As an analyst gets “dirty with the data” you learn, and as you learn, you ask more questions, write more code, learn more and the cycle repeats. So you get to do hypothesis testing on the fly. And via this process with this particular project I stumbled on to a valuable insight that will really benefit a client in acquisition.

Had I just relied on the original analytic design and had it run through the CRM system, I would have never stumbled on to this idea.

Maybe you are different, but as I analyze things I am constantly thinking about the recommendations I am expected to produce. And as I have these constant little conversations with myself, my best ideas are generated. And the more I am in the raw data handcrafting the analytics, the more ideas I generate.

Canned reports separate the analyst from the data. So if you are in the process of building a CRM solution for your nonprofit organization, only develop the handful of canned reports that you use on a frequent basis.

And leave budget for ad-hoc analyses.

And if it’s in the digital space, you should consider working with my friends at A Brave New. They are smart and insightful.

There is no doubt canned reports are important – but they can never replace the power of hand-crafted analytics by smart people.

About Bill

Bill brings over 20-years of research and analytics experience to Analytical Ones clients. His specialty is in the area of direct response fundraising. He is recognized for leveraging data into marketing insights.

Bill’s work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes and Business Week magazines as well as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune newspapers. He has also been a guest on the CNBC program On The Money and regularly blogs about nonprofit fundraising.

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