I've said for years that associations spend much more money on collecting data than they do analyzing what it means and taking action on the information it represents. This is starting to change as associations shift from making decisions based on instinct, politics or tradition and instead basing decisions on data. I refer to this as "data-guided" decision making, instead of "data driven". The reason is that it is still essential to use the wisdom of leaders and staff to determine what to measure and what action to take after you have analyzed the data.
Associations can be inspired by the many ways that data can be used to generate revenue. For example in a recent article in Associations Now magazine, Sift Skills: The Value of Big Data for Associations, the Texas Medical Association describes how they were able to gain 1,100 new members simply by mining the data they already had. Other associations are using data to profile their optimal member by segment and achieving much more success in recruiting by strategically directing their efforts toward attracting more members that meet those profiles. We also see great success with associations using data to determine where to locate their events, identifying who is at risk for non-renewal, and who is likely to donate.
We were pleased that the article emphasized the importance of the DSK 5 step process for business intelligence as outlined in our March 2013 post. The steps are: Scope, Collect, Clean, Analyze and Communicate.
Business intelligence means using data to make decisions. Associations have more data than they realize and the most important thing is to start analyzing it now! Even small steps can yield big results. We recommend keeping it simple and starting small. Take one high profile area of your association and start there. Typically this will be either membership or the highest revenue generating part of your operations, such as events or publications. Next start brainstorming all the questions that if you knew the answer to, your organization could be more successful. Then prioritize this list of questions into your "Top 5" and start there. Chances are high that data can be used to answer these questions and enable your association to increase revenue, retention or new members.