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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Sector not using data to its best advantage

 

Unlocking the potential of data can reap rich rewards

Third sector organisations aren’t using data to their advantage due to lacking the analytical skills needed.

Latest findings from Data Orchard in its State of the Sector report, which annually analyses the data maturity of hundreds non-profit organisations, shows that to move to data ‘mastery’, better leadership is needed.

Designed for the not-for-profit sector, and completed by almost 1,000 users in 2021 alone, the tool measures organisational data maturity on a five-stage journey. This progresses from ‘Unaware’ through to ‘Mastering’ across seven key themes: Uses, Data, Analysis, Leadership, Culture, Tools, and Skills. 

Lots of data exists but only 2% of respondents feel that their leadership are actually using that data to make data-informed decisions.

A majority (63%) say their leadership is not convinced about its value. Worryingly, 9% say leadership don’t use data for decision making at all. 

One reason for this is the huge skills gap in the sector. Over half (53%) say that there is no one with data analytics expertise within their leadership, limiting the ability to access meaningful insights from data that often comes from disparate sources.

A major obstacle is people not knowing what skills and capabilities they need, nor where they can access trustworthy advice and support.

Skills was the weakest area for all non profits, and this is reflected in all levels of seniority. Without undertaking skills audits, and training teams, collecting data and ensuring it’s good quality will not be enough – it’s how it is analysed and used that matters.

Only a quarter say leaders invest enough in data related resources: people, skills, learning and tools.

Sian Basker, Data Orchard’s Co-Chief Executive and author of the report, said: “There’s a tendency to think about the need for more digital tools to help the sector make the most of its data, and certainly there’s lots to do.

“But actually it seems to be culture that’s the real influencing factor. Our analysis this year was able to show strong positive correlation between the culture of an organisation and its data maturity. Whereas scoring highly for the tools theme had much less of an impact.” 

Leaders who embrace data maturity and put the effort and energy into it will see the benefits. Basker says responses from charities scoring higher levels of data maturity show that investing in developing data maturity reaps solid rewards.   

“As data maturity advances, organisations do invest more time in data, but proportionally, the rewards and benefits grow at a much faster rate. For example, compared to an organisation at ‘Learning’ stage, a ‘Developing’ organisation increases its average time spent on data by 7%, but increases its ability to use data to evidence the need and problems they are addressing by almost 30%.”

Data Orchard is calling on policy makers, leaders, and decision makers with an interest in strengthening the sector to invest more in building the knowledge and skills to advance data maturity.

 

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