Cary_Herman_roundCorner_Unlocking_Door_Data_Discovery

by Cary Herman

“Just what do we know about our grantmaking business?”

For years, grantmaking organizations have been asking questions and performing a vast array of analyses on grantmaking and operational activity. As new senior leadership comes into the nonprofit space from the private and for-profit sectors, more questions are posed in efforts to stretch budgets and increase efficacy as much as possible.

How do these efforts apply to the data discovery performed by foundations?

Types of Data Discovery Analysis

Data discovery analyses by foundations typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Grantmaking Activity to answer questions such as: “To whom have we granted money?” “For which issues have we awarded funds?” “What populations are the beneficiaries of our awards?”
  • Operations and Compliance to answer questions such as: “How much money do I have left to spend?” What is the workload distribution?” “How long does it take to process a grant and where might there be bottlenecks?” “Do all awards have the required documentation both internal and from grantees?”
  • Impact – to answer questions such as: “Have our grantees affected cultural change?” “Has legislation passed that improves the situation for marginalized populations?” “Have our grantees affected programs that improve the situation for marginalized populations?”

Unlocking Data Quality

The starting point to any data discovery is the implementation of a robust CRM system like Salesforce, and a grants management system like foundationConnect. With a proper system, you can quickly analyze your most frequent grantees and how much they have been awarded. In addition, you can capture the impact these grantees have had addressing their most critical issues.

How do you unlock the deadbolt on the front door of data discovery? The key is to not only capture the data to answer your questions, but to ensure data quality.

“What do you mean by ‘data quality?’ If it’s all in the system, how can it not be quality?”

For quality data to exist, there must be standards. Those standards must be enforced consistently in order to accurately aggregate and report findings. Take for example, the standard ways to represent the street suffix of an address (Street, Avenue, Drive, Road, etc.). They may be spelled out, abbreviated, or given a hybrid abbreviation/acronym that is accepted by the postal service.

When standards are imprecise, a system is far less effective. I saw this firsthand while working on a prototype to visualize the distribution of award money by location of concern. At a certain level of detail, the foundation learned that the report represented only twenty five percent (25%) of the data.

The reasons: grant awards were coded at a higher level (larger geographic area) than where the analysis was performed; in addition, many grant awards were coded to non-standard, custom geographic areas and regions that were not aligned to geographic areas and regions of the mapping feature.

Beyond Salesforce Reports and Dashboards: BI Tools

Salesforce provides the ability to generate a variety of reports and dashboards out of the box. Using its drag-and-drop report builder, you can quickly generate reports with criteria that you define. Multiple reports can be visualized via dashboards and shared through folders. Reports that admins or advanced users can create will go a long way to answer many questions. However, for more robust data discovery, a pair of tools with great ability are Tableau and Qlik.

Tableau and Qlik

Both Tableau and Qlik have connectors for Salesforce and can integrate into your Salesforce implementation. Both also provide predictive features that speed up report development. “Joins” automatically create editable links across data sources and tables, and reduce the need for advanced development skills and support. More advanced reports and dashboards, however, will need the support of those with more advanced development skill or training on the tool selected.

Reporting with Tableau

Tableau leverages a drag-and-drop designer that is very Excel-like and enables the creation of reports within minutes. Custom dimensions and measures can be defined in the design process and incorporated into the report. Tableau then facilitates the development of dashboards by dropping individual reports onto the dashboard. With some additional configuration, all reports can be linked for filtering across the entire dashboard. For additional analysis or point-in-time analysis, Tableau allows the end-user to export the underlying data.

Data Visualization with Qlik

Qlik enables the connection to your Salesforce instance via their Qlik Sense product. Qlik also uses a drag-and-drop designer for app development, and any number of visualizations can be created and added to a page. The tool makes it possible for app designers to provide filters that will impact all objects on the page. Should the end-user wish to perform additional analysis or create a point-in-time report, Qlik can export data to Excel.

Both tools facilitate discovery in ways that may provide insight into unrealized trends, as well as insights that can serve to support or transform the organizational or grantmaking strategy.

Cary Herman is a Principal Consultant for foundationConnect by roundCorner. Managing and executing key implementations, he helps foundations transform philanthropic giving to achieve a greater impact in the world.

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