Data is Meaningless (Not Really – Hear Me Out)

By | Board, Industry, Leadership, Mission Delivery, Organizational Health, Trends Reports & Surveys | 3 Comments

As the new Daxko Product Manager focused on all things reporting and analytics across Daxko products, I spend 100% of my time listening to users, documenting needs, and forming and managing plans to ensure that what we do now will improve what is delivered to customers in the short and long terms. This is sincerely fun stuff.

In my 13 years of working with data in different jobs — from U.S. Space Command (yep, you can ask me about satellites) to federal child welfare benchmarking (happy to chat about child well-being trends) to Y-USA and Y data (program, membership and impact – you name it!), my hands-down favorite thing is this…

Data doesn’t answer questions well.

Nope, I’m not kidding.

Intuitively, we all know this. If your blood pressure is 160 over 110, you think, “that’s not good” … BUT if it was 170 over 120 when you measured it two weeks ago, then all of a sudden those very same numbers make you think, “I’m improving! This is good (or at least better)”. Those “bad looking” numbers are telling you you’re moving in the right direction.

As you might infer, “how was that collected?”, “so what?”, “compared to what?” and “well, that depends … “ are my go-to responses. That’s because if we don’t answer these questions we are in danger of not understanding what is actually going on and making bad decisions as a result.

Data need to be many things to be meaningful. At a minimum, it needs the following:

#1: It needs to be correct. A nurse measuring your blood pressure needs to not only know how to use the exact model of the cuff they put on your arm, they also need to read, remember, and write-down the right two numbers while using it. To go one further, the doctor who reads what the nurse wrote has to be able to decipher his or her handwriting or the whole process is nullified. The industry word for this is data integrity. It’s self-explanatory why it’s vital, but it’s also very easily not achieved — or even realized if you don’t have it.

#2: It needs to be presented in context. This is how we know what’s good, bad, or trending in a certain direction. In this example, we have blood pressure guidelines for healthy ranges. Not only do those exist, but there are different ranges for how old you are, if you’re male or female, or if you’re on a plan with your doctor to reach a certain goal. Heck, they can even change over time as new research emerges. Good health care providers will also tell you to consider this information in combination with other factors, such as family history, diet, weight, etc.

#3: It needs to be digestible. You could have access to the best information in the world, but if you can’t explain what you have, you can’t use it. If we all needed to explain systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) of blood pressure, many would feel overwhelmed or get stuck on information that doesn’t answer their questions. In this example, if #1 and #2 above are done well, it’s much easier to take-in your blood pressure ratio than also having to take-in all the research behind it.

I’m drawn to analysis and reporting because good data is different than available data. I would argue that meaningful data is more important than Big Data, we’ve-always-collected-that data, and that’s-interesting data.

So let’s revise what’s above…

Data collected via sound methodologies and presented in appropriate context in a way that can be understood answers questions VERY well.

Daxko is working to give customers accurate, relevant, digestible data to our users. Some of the ways we are making this happen:
  • Improving our data warehouse so all customers will have just the right (depending on the needs of their organization) access to the  data they need
  • Elevating the custom reports user experience to provide easy, quick data points in context that will make a difference to the organization
  • A quick and accurate measurement of the positive difference you are making with your members (think of it like a cause-driven nonprofit NPS Score)
  • Refining the Donor Index to allow fundraisers the ability to create targeted outreach  campaigns just for donors

You can reach me at cmiller@daxko.com if you have thoughts about Daxko data and reporting – I’d love to talk to you.

Daxko CEO Dave Gray Will Serve on the Board of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham

By | Board, Events & Happenings, Industry, Leadership, Mission Delivery | No Comments

Daxko CEO David Gray recently joined the board of directors of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham. Gray has long been a supporter of the Y movement and Daxko software runs behind the scenes at many YMCAs across the country. He joins YMCA of Greater Birmingham CEO Stan Law on the board and Gray already serves on the board of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in North Carolina.

“I am honored to serve on the board of directors of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham,” states Gray. “I am passionate about the work of the YMCA in our community, and I look forward to collaborating with Stan and his team, as well as other board members, to promote the Y values of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility across the Birmingham area.”

The YMCA of Greater Birmingham is the Daxko “Hometown Y” and serves Jefferson and Shelby Counties in Alabama. Currently made up of 14 local branches that engage more than 60,000 men, women, and children in the Birmingham area.

The YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is a 1,200 acre retreat and conference center located in the Black Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Blue Ridge Assembly has a long history of impacting lives through meetings, groups, and school programs.

3 Vital Steps as You Initiate a Strategic Planning Process

By | Board, Engagement, Industry, Leadership, Mission Delivery | No Comments

Strategic planning doesn’t have to be a painful process. It’s necessary to maintain and revise a strategic plan frequently in order to ensure your nonprofit is meeting goals and achieving it’s mission. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, “Ideally, as staff and board engage in the process, they become committed to measurable goals, approve priorities for implementation, and also commit to revisiting the organization’s strategies on an ongoing basis as the organization’s internal and external environments change.”

As you begin your strategic planning with your board, here are three steps to get started:

  1.  Ask yourself this question:  What significant measurable community impact do we want the YMCA to produce over the next 5 years? Your answers to this question will be the framework for all your discussions moving forward.  If you are having trouble answering the question, start with the things you are already doing. How do you take those efforts to the next level? Is there a logical next step that stems from something you’re already doing and doing well? This may lead you to new programs and services you can offer your community!  Thinking big here is not a problem, but once you have some ideas down you need to whittle your thoughts down to be clear, concise, compelling, and challenging. According to Wes Bender of Triangle2 Solutions, “With a clear, concise, compelling and courageous plan, each action of the organization becomes self-reinforcing and creates more options that are beneficial. Each victory during the strategic planning process is a step to clear the path for your organization’s future.”
  2. Review the data:  Triangle2 Solutions advises YMCA, JCC, and other community nonprofits to base their plans on concrete facts. This includes operations or engagement data, community research, board and staff insights, and societal trends. Sifting through vast amounts of data can be challenging but it’s important to know where trends are emerging and where you can have a meaningful impact in your community. Need help getting started? Consultants can offer resources to help you mine and sift through your organization’s data stores. They may also offer help accessing and deciphering societal and community trends.
  3. Set priorities and expectations: Once you have a solid answer to how you want to impact your community and you have the research to best channel your efforts, it’s time to prioritize. You can’t do everything and be everything to your community, so you’re going to have to pick and choose based on your strengths. “All current operations and new development should be placed into categories,” says Triangle2 Solutions Consultant, Tom Massey. Those categories are: Top Priority, Future Priority, Ongoing Work, and Reduced Emphasis. By placing all your efforts into buckets, you get a really clear idea of everything you’re organization is doing including where you might be spread thin, and where you might be able to scale back.

By following these initial steps you save time and stress later down the line. The next step in the process often involves assigning a team for the planning process and if you have already begun working on these three things you can more easily commit to the measurable, important goals that make your organization and your community a better place.

Defining a Strategy

By | Board, Industry, Leadership, Organizational Health | No Comments

There are certain business terms that are used to mean such a wide range of things. Terms like mission, vision, strategy, goals and objectives all come immediately to mind. These inconsistencies can lead to confusion and lack of clarity.

So when we tackle something like “strategy,” it is vitally important for us to all have the same understanding of how we will define the term for our use. It doesn’t mean others outside Daxko will agree with how we define it or that our approach is the right one, but it does mean that all of us at Daxko need to use the same definition and context.

When we talk strategy at Daxko, here’s how we put it into practice and what we’ve learned over the years:

  • For us, going through a formal strategy process needs to happen every three years. We just completed our latest round, which will take us through 2017.
  • We’ve learned that it needs to be regularly reviewed and validated. It can’t be a one-time event.
  • Strategy statements are for internal use. They are not marketing pieces.
  • A strategy statement is best if it’s short and memorable. We try to keep ours to around 40 words. Our latest one is 44, so pretty close.
  • We’ve learned that even 40 words…or 44…can be hard to remember, so we developed a 9-word strategy “headline.” Think of it as a theme or rallying cry. Here it is: “Daxko will empower our customers to engage more people.”
  • At its core, strategy needs to answer 3 questions: Where will we play? How will we win? How will we keep score?
  • Strategy tells you what you will do, but just as importantly, it should tell you what you will NOT do.
  • Finally, strategy is not magic. It still requires smart people to make informed decisions, maintain focus and exhibit determination.