New tool enables charities to understand their data maturity and move forward for success

A new, first ever of its kind, report from Data Orchard looks at the data maturity of the sector, and provides seven key factors for success (Leadership, Uses, Data, Analysis, Culture, Tools and Skills) across a five stage journey (Unaware, Emerging, Learning, Developing and Mastering).

The consultancy (a not-for-profit social enterprise themselves), have looked at the data from their Data Maturity Self Assessment Tool October 2019 to December 2020 and present the findings in State of the Sector Data Maturity In the Not-for-Profit Sector 2020.

Data maturity is the organisational journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data. Good data maturity allows charities and organisations to work more efficiently, identify priorities, assess output and outcomes in an iterative way, make the most of resources and ultimately deliver the best support to beneficiaries.

Through analysis of the information Data Orchard found that most organisations (46%) are in the learning stage – keen to progress, but needing more support. They hope that by understanding where they are right now, those in the sector will be able to identify the right steps to progress in developing and mastering stages. This isn’t just about looking at gaps, but finding the right solutions to solve them.

What are the key findings?

The ten key findings from Data Orchard in relation to not-for-profit sector organisations are:

1. The cost of data is huge, hidden, and often wasted.

2. Most leaders don’t see the value of data.

3. Data quality is a big challenge.

4. A lot of data is still on paper.

5. People don’t have good digital tools or don’t use them effectively.

6. There’s lots of counting but not enough meaningful analysis.

7. Only some are using data to question and challenge.

8. Some are vulnerable around data protection and security.

9. Most have major inefficiencies in their approach to data.

10. There’s a lack of skills, responsibility and support around data.

Sian Basker is Co-Chief exec of Data Orchard and the main author of the report says: “When we first started looking at data maturity in 2015 we found that all the models and tools were aimed at the commercial sector, mostly at analytics teams in huge corporates. But we knew it was important for the third sector, and wanted to provide the resources and knowledge to enable charities and organisations to develop their data maturity. We’re constantly learning (we’re now on version 22 of Data Orchard’s free online Data Maturity Assessment Tool), and so are delighted to share our first state of the sector report.”

The report shows that data is most used for regulator, funder and contract reporting (77% extensively or moderately). This helps improve strategic planning and decision making; income generation; credibility and influence; and improving impact. 31% say they use data to explore and test assumptions about the difference they make. A similar proportion say they run pilots or trials to explore how best to act in the future.

There is a very mixed picture when it comes to data quality. Capturing it isn’t enough – it has to be good. Only 42% believe their data to be complete, accurate, and up to date. Data versatility remains out of reach for many though. This means data is often being collected for a single purpose, project or team. Only 44% have rich data they can use and re-use for different internal and external stakeholders.

Use of technology could play a big role in progressing data maturity. Only 39% say they are collecting data in an efficient way, and 5% state that they are bringing data together from different sources and analysing it in automated ways to provide a strategic overview, and very few are using advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics.

A skills shortage is a concern. Staff just aren’t equipped to use data effectively. Part of this is down to leadership. Only one in twenty organisations has leadership that prioritises data as a vital resource and understands how to use it to improve what the organisation does. In 63% of organisations respondents say the leadership is not convinced about the value of data. However, a third say their leadership is engaged and supportive, ask the right questions of the data, and are active in harnessing its value. Only 28% say they have people with data analytics expertise within their leadership and only 24% say leaders invest enough in data related resources i.e. people, skills, learning and tools.

Security and data protection is an issue. Just over two-thirds say their files and documents are centrally and securely stored, primarily in the cloud and they make use of cloud-based software systems. Only one in three say their files and documents are well organised and managed, and that staff find it easy to search for and find the information they need.

It’s encouraging that there are those at the forefront who prioritise and invest in their data capabilities and are reaping fruitful rewards in advancing their organisation’s cause. However more needs to be done to educate and upskill our sector to ensure that data maturity is not just a nice to have, but an essential goal for all in the not-for-profit sector.

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