Friday, May 8, 2009

Data is just plain dull to most people...

To me, it's not. But clearly I am a data geek of sorts.

I'm not a number cruncher, data analyst type, but I love gleaning insights from meaningful data and helping charities on the back of it.

But after several years of doing this, I think the penny had dropped for me.

Most people find data incredibly dull, and somewhat frightening.

I presented yesterday at the AFP Ottawa Fundraising Day. My session was entitled, Using donor insights to drive growth in your direct marketing program.

The session description said that I was going to talk about the different types of data available to drive your program forward, blah blah blah...

Just 18 people showed up.

That included the session host, the session volunteer and two people from one of our competitors checking us out.

Of course the session focusing on online and raising more money from your website was packed to the rafters, not a seat left. The mere mention of the world online at conferences sends delegates into a super-excited state, much like a teenage boy who's just landed a date with the girl of his dreams. Seriously.

So what Jonathon?

I'm not critical of fundraiser's desire to absorb as much as they can about the digital world, truly I am not. BUT the lack of interest in finding ways to better understand what's happening in your database and how to make inroads is an issue in our sector.

This is not an isolated comment about conference choices.

This is a comment made from encountering this over a number of years meeting with hundreds, literally hundreds, of fundraisers all over the world.

Either people couldn't give a damn about understanding data or (quite possibly) it just freaks them out!

So I have 2 options: either just get over it and keep doing what I'm doing. Or, the more logical and sensible thing to do, help people understand it better and allay their fears.

Of course I'll go with the latter option.

And the first step to doing that is for me to sell it better. Make it sound less daunting, more exciting, and more likely to help them do what they're paid to do, raise shed loads of money.

There you go, that's my challenge to myself on this Wednesday evening.

I'll keep loving data and make sure others around me do as well.



TJ said...

I was one of the 18 folks at your presentation, Jonathon, and I have to say that yours was the best session of the day in my opinion. Really interesting material, and exceptionally well delivered.

I think the session description partially accounted for the low audience turnout, as did the lack of presenter bios available at sign-up (two issues for the ogranizers to consider, for sure).

Anyway, thanks for the informative and energetic session!

Tara Jackson, Ottawa Humane Society

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Thanks Tara! I'm glad you found the session useful.

Appreciate the feedback re the session description and speaker bios, very useful.

Take care and stay in touch.

Ted Grigg said...

I do agree with your assessment Jonathon.

You might want to jump over to Kevin Hillstrom's MineThatData Blog at

This post speaks volumes to the issue you bring up. Analysts are in great demand. Yet few of us want to work that hard.

DM strategy relies heavily on data. Without it, you cannot leverage the true power of the direct response discipline.

Thanks for the interesting post.


Jonathon Grapsas said...

No problems Tedd, appreciate your feedback. Have checked out that blog a few times but thanks for the reminder, I will be sure to frequent it more often!