Using Data to Gain Clarity and Reduce Uncertainty

Using Data to Gain Clarity and Reduce Uncertainty
Chalkboard drawing of data enters a funnel for clarity and comes out as gears and information.

Relevance and affordability are paramount aspects of retaining association members and engaging prospects. In an era driven by technology, data can help leaders guide their organizations forward with great focus and effectiveness — if used properly. Here are ways your association can use data to gain clarity, reduce uncertainty and cultivate member and nonmember growth.

Begin with the end

Consolidating and auditing data can build a better, clearer picture of member needs and how your organization fulfills them. When undergoing such an effort, it’s integral to begin with the end in mind. Think about what you are trying to accomplish over the next 12-18 months, and then layer on what you need to know to maximize your efforts. Ask yourself: “What information is available to me and what is missing? How well do our systems support our ability to be data-driven decision makers? What gaps exist between what we have now and what we need to guide us into the future? Can our systems communicate with one another?” With answers to those questions, a clear roadmap can be created by informed technology leaders, who can then find the right tools to help association executives make the right moves forward.

Learn to let go

Data-driven organizations understand that the quality of data matters more than quantity. Referring to years’ worth of old data that has little to no value can stall an organization’s progress. Keeping up means learning how to let go. Instead, look to current data warehouses and best practices to stay up to date with current demand. For example, you shouldn’t reference data from several years ago to learn what content people are interested in today or tomorrow; instead, utilize Google Analytics and other information from current data to make smarter decisions at the pace of your members rather than living in the past.

Enhance operational efficiency

Like most association priorities, the foundation of data is critical to your mission. When your technology leaders are aligned with your organization’s overarching goals, they can provide perspectives and plans dedicated to supporting:

  • Marketing/communication segmentation strategies
  • Non-dues revenue tools based on benchmarking data
  • Virtual education and online communities
  • Forecasting/scenario planning within analytics platforms
  • Event planning/logistics
  • Volunteer management
  • Content management
  • Networking

Give tech a seat at the table

In too many instances, there is a lack of communication between everyone who touches data within an organization — from the teams that build data collection tools, to those who translate that data into insights, to the executives who use those insights to make big decisions.

Often, analysts are stuck in the middle trying to keep up with or react to plans, and it isn’t until an initiative is complete that IT is given proper context. But by bringing IT leaders into important conversations earlier in the process, they can be more proactive in anticipating needs and providing more innovative solutions.

Diagram showing that most IT staff are not communicating with execitves then an arrow pointing to a venn diagram where they are overlapping and communicating.

In that same vein, association and technology leaders need to be in sync. Success is much easier when everyone is heading in the same direction. Bringing IT leaders into these conversations early on enhances operations, fills communication gaps and creates a fruitful partnership that will pay dividends in the long run.

Creating a cohesive understanding of goals and coordinating collaboration across an organization empowers the use of data to gain clarity and reduce uncertainty. As associations enhance their utilization of data and analytics, they can tap into technology to better support, promote and achieve their missions.

To learn more about data strategy, why it is imperative, and ways to implement your own, tune into our session Nobody Puts Data in a Corner: Strategic Plans and Data Strategy Go Together at Association Forum’s SmartTech Conference® on September 30.