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Author: Created: 7/27/2007
By admin on 3/19/2014
Design experts understand that great design addresses every product detail. Think about companies that are experts at design – Bose, Apple, Kohler – how do we integrate great design into reporting and analytics? We read mixed case 15%-20% faster than upper case. The mind recognizes letters and additionally the shapes of words. Concepts like this are very important since ease of use is a critical aspect of design. A piece of information should be able to convey its principle message in just a few seconds. We want our consumers to “reach the brand” or “engage the brand” and design helps them to do this. Information should adhere to the organization’s brand –design your information so it has credibility, the right focus, conveys the right message and has an effective brand. Are colors you use in graphs using the same color palette as your logo? Good design helps viewers organize information easily. One approach is to have a style guide or standards so your information has the same look and feel. If the report…
By admin on 3/14/2014
Ignaz Semmelweis changed the world by showing that if doctors washed their hands there was a much smaller chance of transmitting infections. This discovery, like many others was based on data. People that did calculations with data during the life of Ignaz were called computers. Over time, the meaning of computer has obviously changed as machines have taken over the mundane calculating, but people are still using their powers of questions and curiosity to discover answers to problems. Machines are challenged when it comes to making inferences – humans are more comfortable with the semantic inferences involved in relating data to decisions. Think about how people use spreadsheets – many that have “grown up” with spreadsheets often look at formulas to make sure that they are correct – but they may stop at that point. Even if the formulas are working, this doesn’t provide insight into stories that the information may be telling. In this case we may be relying too much on the machine for insight. We need…
By admin on 3/7/2014
Fundraising analytics may be defined or termed as “closed loop decision making.” Analytics help focus on making the right decisions, based on past, present and predictive data. This is a holistic view – not just focused on predicting the future using predictive models but combining many data points to point us in the right direction. For major gift shops, how do we re-align gift officer portfolios and focus our gift officers on the right donors? Which major gift officers will donors respond more effectively to? Which unit in the organization, such as athletics should a prospect be assigned? How can analytics inform this decision and how should we subsequently code this in our system? A successful analytics program needs to have a roadmap; it just doesn’t happen on its own. A roadmap needs to leverage changes in processes, people, data quality, have appropriate governance and sponsorship, be pragmatic. The roadmap needs to provide the right people with the right information and help them make business decisions…
By admin on 3/5/2013
What do you need to do to win? Organize your information and make it universally available to everyone in your organization. Is your analytics “the largest library, with all the books on the floor?” How do you find the pieces of information that you need, how do you transmit this knowledge throughout your organization and provide what’s relevant? We’ll talk about this a little and look at some examples from Google. Every day, 16% of all searches on Google are new – questions that have never been asked before. Google’s contribution to analytics was creating a sea-change in the way advertising was done – the contribution was that Google is constantly driving the need for improving all aspects of analytics to serve up and deliver ads – and they’re even using analytics to create self-driving cars. These ideas are changing the world – how can you use data to radically transform the world? What are some of the challenges in using analytics? Fundraising is more data driven today than it has been in the past. There…
By admin on 1/31/2013
How do you grow overnight visitors to a city? You’re dealing with experiences and they based on a number of cross correlation elements such as world crisis, stock markets and other social and economic factors. Does your organization benchmark against external economic and social indicators to help understand past behavior, segment and test your programs and help drive your strategic planning and resource allocation decisions? An easy correlation is to compare stock market indices to specific constituent segments. A school that specializes in training engineers in the resource extraction industries might want to correlate alumni groups and giving against specific commodity prices. A petroleum engineer’s engagement and giving activities against the price of crude could easily be done. The more granular our segmenting – providing we’re doing enough testing and verifying the accuracy – the more effective we can be in targeting marketing. Geographic and wealth segmenting is fairly easy Most countries have geographic and income overlays that you can integrate into your reporting environment to provide map views of some of your donor and prospect behavior. Do you send different letters to neighborhoods with a higher wealth demographic or do you send the same letters? The social strata and activities of the super-rich are often quite different than that of the general population. If we’re doing a dual major gift and annual ask – it only makes sense to have different collateral….
By admin on 11/8/2012
Our ability to raise money is now tied more than ever to the degree that decision makers can use real time information, trend analysis and appropriate metrics to monitor results and activity to move the organization in the right direction. However, many of us struggle with information delivery and sometimes even the most basic reports and statistics can seem to be lacking in relevancy, depth and breadth. Technical staff struggle with their queues and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete simple reports let alone more complex analysis and to find a vision for information needed in the future. New report requests can take days or weeks to complete and are often subject to a lot of iterations. Fundraising is an opportunity driven business and we can be overwhelmed with ad-hoc reporting that is essential to being able to ask those important “what ifs”. Our standard reporting is continually questioned on accuracy and credibility. Consider some of the following questions. Your answers…
By admin on 10/8/2012
How do you use a visual analytics tool? Just count some of the ways. Analysis, analytics, report prototyping, as a report engine for all manner of users, as a change agent. It’s a tool that’s fairly easy to use and can do a lot as you get more advanced. What are some of the critical pieces of news and updates on the Tableau products and company? Here’s a few from what should be a fairly reliable source (an employee doing a presentation.) It’s what would be considered a “fairly normal” glossy and optimistic corporate presentation. I’ve also integrated a few of my own comments and observations, and tried to convey a few of the better tips and tricks that were mentioned. Lots of growth. Company growing all the time. No mention of the challenges of growth and how an organization needs to adapt. Major element of growth to watch out for is if sales plateau or drop off and the company needs to make major changes. No indication yet that this is about to happen.

Lots of hiring. Hiring here, there and everywhere….
By admin on 8/10/2012
Howard Dresner from the Gartner Group defined business intelligence as “a set of principles and methodologies to improve decision making in business through use of facts and fact based systems.”

How should we incorporate these principles into our organizations so that they’re helping us change our direction? And more critically – how do we get our end user communities to adopt the tools and techniques? This is never an easy task and requires a lot of work. Defining What We Mean by Business Intelligence The first step is to have an agreed upon definition of business intelligence that provides clarity for your user community. It’s more essential now than it’s ever been. As we begin to utilize more advanced techniques such as data mining, predictive and visual analytics, and in-memory processing, our definition of business intelligence may need to change. The clarity helps to set user expectations – a clear definition also helps provide a scope that’s a little clearer. Monitoring, scorecards, drilldown,…
By admin on 7/10/2012
Reporting is changing – in the conventional sense – papers/pages – to a more visual and data discovery approach. Visual analytics has become a new science. From reports to the idea of reporting solutions – integrated, based on a data warehouse as a foundation, utilizing data cubes and other structures that allow business analysts and even casual users to ease into the world of business intelligence – an approach to information that is much more iterative and visual.

Most users are challenged with reports. Even if the reports utilize dropdowns, users don’t always understand what the prompts will give them. The information output is still “fixed” in that it is in a static format on a page. Users are more familiar with tools such as Excel which allow them to sort and format information in ways that simply can’t be provided by static reports. How do we bridge the gap between standard reporting and data discovery while still providing the degree of control we need to protect users from mistakes they might make…
By admin on 12/12/2011
Brian W Dowling“Up to 50% of managers have no confidence in the numbers that are given to them.” – From a recent study done in the U.K. Spreadsheets are a minefield of internal control issues around information. If Excel is your primary tool for analytics, you may be in trouble. Just ask yourself the question: how many spreadsheets does your organization own? If you’re using a stand alone report writer, you may have a little more automation, but more likely you have complex business logic imbedded in many of your reports. When the logic changes, you have a lot of maintenance to do. You’ll end up with control issues similar to that of using spreadsheets. Business intelligence should align itself with the strategic objectives of a business, and when the foundation of your reporting and information is a data warehouse, you can leverage your data in ways that have a measureable impact on the success of your business, not of which alone is increased efficiency in your reporting environment….
By admin on 7/13/2011
Brian W DowlingAn ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) tool is often an essential software component for building and populating your data warehouse. However, you should carefully consider the implications of adding one of these tools to your tool set, and you may wish to look at some alternatives first. You can purchase fully functional Microsoft SQL Server Developer Editions which have almost all of the functionality of the full blown Enterprise edition of SQL Server including SSIS (a pretty robust ETL tool) and a set of data mining tools that work with Analysis Services and Office 2007/2010. All of these can be run on a workstation and if you only have 1 or two people who need to utilize these tools, this is a pretty affordable way to get your feet wet. The SQL environment is integrated through the management studio – you can do a lot, with a lot of tools, at a very minimal cost. It’s a good way to experiment with the ETL component and see if it’s really the way you want to go. I’ve been involved in a number of data warehouse projects in the past where there was no ETL tool and a lot of this was done through SQL scripts and batch jobs to run the scripts. Not the most elegant solution but one that works and can get you up and running. …
By admin on 9/24/2010
Brian W DowlingInteresting video showing augmented reality and 3d working with a book.

Fun conceptually when we think of how we might relate to reporting – such as holding a donor profile up to a webcam and getting a 3d picture of the donor on the monitor – using a webcam to navigate through the 3d peaks and valleys of a cumulative giving report by fiscal year by quarter by month by tender type by fund?

Other possibilities?

Augmented Reality Book from marklukas on Vimeo.

By admin on 8/5/2010
Brian W DowlingWe all want to improve our reporting but this is challenging given our ever present queue of work. What are some simple steps we can take to make some improvements? What are some quick wins? A reporting strategy that is not always obvious – benchmark your reports against those of other institutions and try to use this benchmarking to help improve and provide new ideas for your own reporting. We used to share our favorite reports at conferences but don’t always do this any more. Set up standards for reporting and adhere to them so that all of your reports have the same look and feel. Every time someone needs to reinterpret information such as font, it slows down their consumption of the important pieces of information such as total giving. Do a comprehensive inventory of your reports. Over time we often get into situations…
By admin on 6/30/2010
Join the Association for Advancement Services Professionals (AASP) Wednesday, August 4th at 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. EST, for a 90 Minute Webinar on Building Your Data Warehouse. Overview Dr. Ralph Kimball, the founder of the Data Warehouse Institute, uses the metaphor of the publisher to convey the concepts of a data warehouse. A publisher produces a periodical, distributes it, and updates it at regular intervals. Just like a newspaper or web site, a data warehouse must be updated frequently and information in it needs to be accurate for it to be useful. Dr. Kimball also likens the concept of data warehousing to a restaurant. The data warehouse is the kitchen and the dining room is where the presentation and consumption takes place. Diners stay out of the kitchen because it is full of busy people, sharp knives and hot liquids. The way in which the meal is prepared is transparent to the consumer. Presentation is important and fresh ingredients are critical, but diners don’t want to wait too long for their meals….
By admin on 9/18/2008
One of the tenets of great programs is that we measure everything we do and use these analytics and related tools to make improvements.


We all have campaign to date totals, year to date, this year vs. last year, fundraising by donor interest and designation and more.


Activity based metrics such as how many records have we updates, what is our average receipting times and similar are less common. It’s ironic that activity leads to investment, but we don’t have nearly the same amounts of focus that we do on bottom line numbers even though activity based metrics are just as important to “sell” our ideas. For example, a slipping addressable rate may be used to sell a board or governance body on the idea of using data tracing services to improve data quality.


There is a third group of performance elements we don’ t often measure which are probably just as important. These are seldom addressed in a systematic or organized format. There is typically little evidence of any…
By admin on 5/18/2008
One of the first steps is to do a Google search which will bring up most of the vendors:


higher education business intelligence

business intelligence



Considerations for most products should include:


1. Are the presentation layers for both the development environment and end user access 100% web based?

2. Can users self subscribe to a variety of outputs, that allow them to receive information when they want in the format they want?

3. Integration of the BI tool with the ETL tool is critical.

4. Dashboarding and critical performance indicators capabilities.


The selection of these for a campus wide solution is something that typically takes a few months, as these are usually large scale projects.


Most of the major database and software vendors have these tools or are acquiring companies that have developed the tools.


Most are similar in terms of their capabilities.


By admin on 6/30/2006
The Quality of your Data Warehouse The Quality of your Reporting The Quality of your Information After you create your data warehouse, and use it for a while, it is inevitable that you will reach a point where you are experiencing a certain degree of anarchy.


This is especially true if you have a larger team, since not all team members can communicate equally with all others all the time.


Building a data warehouse is part art and part science. Although you may decide in advance on conventions, you can’t overly restrict your technical staff in the creative process otherwise the environment can become very stifling to work in.


A data warehouse involves a substantial learning curve particularly if you started with new technology. Scripts and temporary tables are the easiest way to use sql initially. Stored procedures, derived tables and other more elegant techniques come down the road once we get familiar with the basics and more on to the more advanced and elegant…
By admin on 12/1/2005
Some interesting listserv postings on whether telemarketing staff are using some of the free online services such as Facebook to help manage interactions with their telemarketing staff. Responses included setting up Facebook clubs for callers, but needing to ensure that any information posted on Facebook should not be confidential. Facebook is more useful for asking if someone wants to take over a shift etc. Other responses included using a blog, and the fact that there are a number of sites where you can get free blogs. Again, useful suggestion, but probably better contolled in house because of confidentiality, and the need to assign individual logins and passwords. Microsoft’s Sharepoint is also another way to do this. You can build sites very easily, deploy reporting components directly into the portal and much more. It can be used to become a complete portal and dashboard for not just your telemarketing, but your entire annual fund program. And don’t forget about the possibility of creating a special…
By admin on 10/1/2005
As we move further into the busy season, many of us will have the need for more annual fund reporting, which always has its challenges. – Differences between summary annual fund reports for executives, summary reports for colleges, and detailed annual fund reports going to various constituency offices and individual fundraisers. – You don’t want to have annual fund or other staff spending time reformatting reports, although at the same time you need to provide slice and dice capabilities for the more complex analysis that annual fund typically requires. – The need for detailed analysis also makes the distribution of details problematic, as everyone will tend to come up with different results once they start manipulating data in their own spreadsheets. – Complex terminology, complex data models, complex analysis, jargon on both sides of the fence and similar but different skill sets make the communication of needs and deliverables challenging. How to solve annual fund reporting issues … – You…
By admin on 9/1/2005

At the Advancement Academy in August, Laurent de Janvry did a presentation on how the University of California, Berkeley used a combination of surveys, data mining and modeling techniques to re-evaluate how target groups were being communicated with and solicited.

Laurent has shared his presentations and they are certainly worth reviewing to see how you can use some similar methodologies to help evaluate your own programs.

During his presentation he also stated, that it’s important for us to develop our own models, and the models that worked at Berkeley will not necessarily work in our own shops. The presentations do provide a very good starting point for your own.

Links to the presentations are on the Reports page.


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