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Relief groups get big helping hand from self-service BI tools

Fundraising for charitable organizations can be extremely competitive, so some nonprofits are turning to self-service BI to help gain an edge in attracting donors and improving operations.

HopeHIV, a London-based nonprofit organization that supports children in Africa orphaned or otherwise affected by the HIV epidemic, used to plan its fundraising campaigns on intuition. Workers identified potential donors based on their assumptions of who was likely to give money to the group.

But two years ago, HopeHIV started taking a more data-driven approach, moving all of its donor information into a centralized database with the QlikView self-service business intelligence software implemented on top. Now fundraisers are able to use the self-service BI tools to analyze data in an effort to better understand who gives and how much they donate -- and where the organization should direct its resources.

One of the key discoveries made since the three-person fundraising team started using the BI software was that 62% of total income comes from just 20% of donors. In addition, the team was able to identify donors who hadn't donated in a while and were deemed unlikely to in the future. Kasia Morgan, head of fundraising at HopeHIV, said the analytical findings drove home the point that it's important to maintain close relationships with some donors, while it may not be worth the effort of engaging others.

"It's helped us look at relationship management and understand top donors," Morgan said. "It's been really crucial in pulling together a strategy that allows us to use our time more efficiently."

Putting money where it matters

Efficient but effective fundraising is a must for humanitarian aid groups and other charities in general. There's a lot of money available: Total giving to charitable organizations in the U.S. alone topped $335 billion in 2013, a 4.4% increase over the previous year, according to the latest edition of an annual report published by the Giving USA Foundation. But there's no lack of competition for the attention of donors, and nonprofits like HopeHIV are trying to become more professional on fundraising in order to ensure that they earn their causes a share of the available money without spending more than they have to. That's where self-service BI tools come in.

[Analytical findings have] been really crucial in pulling together a strategy that allows us to use our time more efficiently.
Kasia Morganhead of fundraising, HopeHIV

HopeHIV was able to acquire its QlikView license through a grant from software vendor Qlik, and the group expects self-service BI to play a big role in its future plans. Morgan said the nonprofit is currently developing a new community investing program that will help members of hard-hit communities fund local businesses by borrowing from a pool of money seeded by donations, and hopes to increase income by between $1 million and $1.5 million in the next two years. Running the new program exclusively on paper or through spreadsheets would be unfeasible. This is why the self-service technology will be so important.

"We're suddenly going to be in a situation where all of the details are immediately visible," she said. "It will absolutely speed up our insights into how the program is going."

Medair, a Switzerland-based nonprofit that provides relief to populations affected by natural and man-made disasters, is another Qlik grant recipient that has implemented self-service BI tools throughout its organization. The QlikView software is used in everything from fundraising to human resources recruiting and field operations.

BI self-service speeds decision making

Rob Fielding, Medair's technology and innovation officer, said the biggest benefit has been the ability to make decisions in real time. For example, he and his team are using QlikView to geographically map demographic data for a particular region and then layer on data about where workers and goods have been distributed, enabling operations teams to ensure that everything is distributed optimally. They're also using it to keep up to date on conditions on the ground in affected areas, which allows the organization's grant writers to produce funding proposals that reflect the most current and accurate information.

"What's fantastic about the moment is the transition to a fully digital process," Fielding said. "Instead of taking months to do something, we're reducing it down to days."

He added that Medair has always collected data on its operations and used the information in some aspects of the decision-making process. But now that so much of the data is digital, the organization's ability to make use of it has increased significantly. Fielding sees empowering front-line workers to use data to inform their decisions as another one of the main benefits of using the BI tools.

"We have whole teams who are seeing the benefits of analytics, so we're just trying to push people in the right direction," Fielding said. "We have to allow people to have the freedom to go out there and try it and see where it takes them."

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at eburns@techtarget.com and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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This was last published in March 2015

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How have self-service BI tools changed your operations?
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We use something similar, and it's been a God-send. I don't know if it's because these analytics are new to our company, or what the deal is, but ever since we upgraded our BI analytics we've had NOTHING BUT requests for reports, more reports, reports about reports, and so on. It was overwhelming. So we did a quick evaluation, found a good self-serve BI tool from a small software company - and it's been a lifesaver.
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That's one thing I hear a lot about self-service. Yeah, it's great that business folks can do their own analyses, but one of the best things is that it gives the IT/BI/DW team its life back
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