Key Takeaways: NTC Session “What Does the Data Say?”

I’m going to highlight some of the insights I starred in my notes at last weekend’s conference here in D.C.  First up is a session called “What Does the Data Say? Converting Analytics to Action,” moderated by George Weiner of DoSomething.org.

The underlying premise is that we should use data to drive decisions within our organizations. With that in mind, here are my takeaways:

  • Don’t hide the data! Sharing it widely helps set up more data-driven decisions.  Zeph Harben of VolunteerMatch.org had some good tactics for this, like brown bag lunch training sessions. We’ve done this in some ways at EDF — for example, every blog owner has access to their own Google Analytics — but it was a helpful reminder to look for additional ways to share data.
  • As you’re figuring out what to measure, think about the internal audiences for the data. For example, if you’re going to share it with the director of marketing, who manages your acquisition budget, you might need to present your data in terms of cost per acquisition.  (From Alan McGee, of the super-cool DonorsChoose.org)
  • Give data a seat at the table and let it speak for itself. You want to accustom other people to asking, “What does the data say?” If the data is closely associated with just one person or viewpoint,  it’s going to be harder for it be a neutral decision-making tool.

I’ll close by sharing a story from today. EDF is a results-driven organization, so it’s generally not hard to get people factor data into decisions. Not to say that we’re perfect by any means — we could still do better at identifying and using metrics consistently.

But just a little while ago, we were in our thrice-yearly review with our executive team, and, to my delight, someone other than me did make space for data at the table. It was our president who asked for detail on what “a good response” meant — what was the open rate, what was the click rate?

I can’t invite him to every meeting, so that doesn’t entirely solve the problem of giving data a seat at the table, but it sure makes it easier.

You can get all the slides, tweets and presenter information on the NTC site.