Only 2% of charity chiefs use data to inform decisions

digital and dataUK charities appear to talk a good game when it comes to data strategy, with almost all organisations saying their leadership think data is important, but many lack analytics expertise, while only 6% think leaders prioritise data as a vital resource and even less use data to inform decisions.

That is the damning conclusion of the State of the Sector Data Maturity Report 2021, based on Data Orchard’s Data Maturity Assessment.

Designed for the not-for-profit sector, and completed by almost 1,000 users in 2021, the study measures organisational data maturity through five stages, from from ‘Unaware’ through to ‘Mastering’ across seven key themes: Uses, Data, Analysis, Leadership, Culture, Tools, and Skills.

Over half (53%) of those surveyed insist that there is no one with data analytics expertise within their leadership team, with 63% admitting their leadership is not convinced about data’s value. Only 6% say their leadership plans and prioritises data as a vital resource and understands how to use it to improve what the organisation does.

In fact, the report reveals, only 2% of respondents say their leadership team uses data to inform decisions, while 63% say their leaders are not convinced about its value. Only a quarter feel leaders invest enough in data related resources: people, skills, learning and tools.

Just under half say their organisations analyse data in meaningful and useful ways although on average, 46% of their time goes into collecting, managing, and reporting data.

When it comes to the day to day operations, the vast majority of organisations (91%) are doing simple counts and charts, while two-fifths (40%) are still moderately or extensively using paper forms and questionnaires to collect data.

Analysis of historic data is widespread, with 88% using descriptive analysis to summarise averages and past trends while just over half (54%) use deeper analysis around causes, patterns, differences, and correlations. More advanced predictive and prescriptive types of analytics are less common, used by 29% and 22% respectively.

More than a quarter say they either don’t bring their data together at all or that people verbally report on it.

Data Orchard co-chief executive Sian Basker, who is also author of the report, commented: “There’s a tendency to think about the need for more digital tools to help the sector make the most of its data, and certainly there’s lots to do. But it seems to be culture that’s the real influencing factor.

“Our analysis shows strong positive correlation between the culture of an organisation and its data maturity. Whereas scoring highly for the tools theme had much less of an impact.

“As data maturity advances, organisations do invest more time in data, but proportionally, the rewards and benefits grow at a much faster rate. For example, compared to an organisation at ‘Learning’ stage, a ‘Developing’ organisation increases its average time spent on data by 7%, but increases its ability to use data to evidence the need and problems they are addressing by almost 30%.”

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