Data Democratization: How Data Access Gives Better Insights for Nonprofits

Sep 4, 2018

Many organizations the world over are embracing a concept known as data democratization.

A major shift is taking place in the nonprofit sector regarding how data is accessed, thus significantly improving the value of the insights that data can yield.

Organizations analyze and leverage their data to make internal improvements or to reach specific goals. Through diligence and persistent effort, database administrators are responsible for data management, which means only a handful of people have full access to all of that data.

A lack of data access can limit potential insights gained. While data access is limited, it’s mostly due to the fact that data lives in so many different places (silos) that it can be difficult to bring it into a System of Record (SoR).

To be clear, siloed data is not the intention of database administrators but rather one of the challenges they face. As the volume of data increases and data becomes more complex, the number of disparate data sources also increases.

To understand how data democratization opens a new world of opportunity for nonprofits, consider a few of the reasons the concept is so powerful.

What is data democratization?

Data democratization gives greater access to digital information to more end-users. Average users typically don’t have easy access to the data they need because of the prevalence of data silos.

Despite most other resources citing the problems surrounding data access as a “gatekeeper” or process issue, it is actually more of a technology problem.

In many organizations, development and IT departments are mostly responsible for a nonprofit’s constituent data. Members of other teams—such as marketing or programming—have to rely on development and IT teams to provide the data they need.

Democratization breaks down these barriers by providing an easy way for users to understand and process data without assistance. This expedites the decision-making process, increasing the potential to discover new opportunities.

Data democratization makes nonprofits faster and more agile; giving them a distinct advantage.

Software and technological advancements of the last few years have made data democratization possible. The ideas behind this notion are those of collaboration:

  • Data silos are no more
  • Everyone has the tools to find and access data with ease
  • Everyone is encouraged to make better data-driven decisions

The Benefits of Democratization

The most apparent reason nonprofits should adopt data democratization is because it improves the quality of decision-making. It also changes the culture and the way organizations work. Decisions are now made based on data rather than a “feeling” or opinion.

Beyond that, there are several other considerations that nonprofits should keep in mind.

Collaboration through democratization aims to get data into the hands of as many people as possible. By doing so, these people with diverse expertise are empowered to identify and take action on critical insights.

When applied to nonprofits, data democratization should also provide a more consolidated comprehension of donors and supporters. To break down barriers and remove data silos, data integration is the process by which nonprofits can lay the groundwork for democratization.

Integration combines data from disparate sources into a single system of record (SoR), allowing for faster data analysis. In turn, this allows nonprofits to deepen relationships with constituents and raise more from donors.  

For example, knowing that a new donor bid on high-priced item at your recent auction (but did not win the item), may provide clues to your development team that there’s an opportunity for increasing their ask or otherwise cultivating the relationship.

Challenges and Concerns

With more access for all, nonprofits increase the ability to make data-driven decisions. In organizations where data is segmented by technology and access is restricted, non-technical team members could misinterpret data or rely on their gut.

The biggest challenge with democratization is data integration. Data integration is an ongoing and complex endeavor for organizations large and small.

Integration of data has many associated benefits; it is achievable with the knowledge and tools designed to aid such efforts.

Integration is essential because access can’t happen until data has been consolidated into a single source or SoR. This means that all data must live in one place for ease of access to take place.

Database administrators are always fighting off incorrect or out of date information, still accounting for data hygiene.  

For example, duplicate records are the bane of DBAs because they are costly and time-consuming to address. In a study conducted by Just Associates for the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, researchers discovered that on average, a duplicate medical record costs the organization more than $96.

With data hygiene as a priority, integration can also provide end-users with access to accurate and timely data. This ensures that decisions can be made with the latest and greatest information available.

How to Get Started

Nonprofits must seek out and embrace data democratization to benefit from it. Here are the necessary steps your nonprofit should consider if you’re ready to see how democratization helps you reach new highs and uncover a world of untapped potential.

  1. Buy-in from leadership: When senior leaders are committed to the concept of data democratization, the entire organization is more likely to comprehend its value. Upper management is the key to getting all team members to embrace democratization while also resolving any budgetary challenges.
  2. Investing in training: Access to data is meaningless if those members with the right expertise don’t know how to process that data. Training these individuals will empower them to take responsibility and contribute their unique perspective for making meaningful decisions.
  3. Leveraging the right tools: Data integration will be what drives the idea of democratization. Integration is complex and requires specific tools and planning to carry out effectively.

To see how data democratization can help your organization make better decisions, contact our team today to learn about our incredible line-up of data integration solutions.

Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.