Understanding the past helps you plan for the future. That’s nothing new, although many nonprofits are still in the dark about the efficacy of previous fundraising campaigns.

Navigating the Unknown, a 2019 fundraising report from NTEN and Care2, found that an “overwhelming” majority of nonprofits were not sure how effective their campaigns were.

“Hearing that a Facebook spend has ‘unknown’ revenue results is concerning,” the report states. “How can anyone justify spending thousands of dollars and not having any concrete results to take away? Our recommendation: Invest in the set up and training of your staff in analytics NOW. Get started today by putting your staff into the ‘view only’ mode. Show them they can compare year-over-year results and it could trigger their inner competitive self.”

Calvin Hennick suggested three ways an organization could become more data-driven in this article published in BizTech:

Make Data Transparent and Accessible. Employees should have access to donor-centered metrics, internal financial data and other information that could give them better insight on how to improve fundraising. During this step, nonprofit leaders may seek out tools that create dashboards where staffers can track historical data, as well as begin holding regular review meetings where important metrics are discussed.

Distinguish Between “Vanity” Goals and Measurable Goals. Nonprofit leaders need to know what they’re trying to achieve with data initiatives. It’s easy to perceive “likes” and “shares” as indicators of success, but experts say leaders need to distinguish between so-called “vanity” metrics and those that actually measure tangible effects. One example of a vanity metric is the number of “likes” a nonprofit receives after posting a video to Facebook. While this metric could be a gauge of awareness or even social sentiment, it doesn’t provide any insight into whether people shared the video or how much time they spent watching it. The average amount of time people spent watching the video, however, is an actionable metric, because it can inform future efforts. For example, if the average person only watched half of the video, the nonprofit may make its next video half as long to aim for maximum audience engagement.

Create a Data-Friendly Culture. Data-oriented hiring doesn’t necessarily mean bringing in a team of trained data scientists. But new employees should buy into the idea that the thoughtful use of analytics is important to the organization’s success. Organizations should build a culture that encourages data-driven decision-making, with leaders demanding quantitative analysis to back up assertions and rewarding staff for testing out hypotheses before implementing new initiatives.