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An introduction to analytics: a path to impact measurement

September 12, 2018By

Later this month, David Rees, a Data Architect at Traction, and I will be presenting at Dreamforce on a topic near and dear to our hearts: the impact of Traction's Bandit Tour. Although we are very proud of the work we do each day at Traction, it is the Bandit Tour that has had the most profound effect on our time at Traction. Our session, “Driving Measurable Impact with Einstein Analytics & The Bandit Tour for Good,” will share the impact of the Bandit Tour with the audience, but more importantly help others dig into the how of impact measurement within their own organizations. In this article I'll share highlights from our session and elaborate on best practices to help you on the path towards impact measurement.

Simple vs. complex measurements

Nonprofit organizations are often described as having three main priorities:

  1. Raise resources to deliver on mission objectives (resources include fundraising and volunteers)
  2. Communicate information about the mission
  3. Deliver on mission objectives

Fundamentally, executing and measuring the effectiveness of the first two priorities is virtually the same (on varying scales) for every organization. But the third priority — delivering on the mission — is what makes an organization unique. This is what makes creating industry-wide impact measurements so difficult. Often, the easiest measures are not the best measures for evaluating how an organization is delivering on its mission. Looking at the Bandit Tour, this means we could measure impact in simple ways, or in more meaningful ways. A simple, easy measure for the Bandit Tour is to talk about the number of organizations served and the number of hours of our time donated to these organizations. A more complex impact measurement for the Bandit Tour is to measure the improvements in the organizations we supported, first in ability to leverage Salesforce and ultimately in the ability to deliver on their own missions.

Understanding analytics

This brings us back to the topic of our upcoming session at Dreamforce and what we want the audience to learn. Paralysis relating to the size and depth of analytics and the complexity of impact measurement often prevent organizations from leveraging these tools. To start to demystify analytics and their value for impact measurement, we need to understand the three types of analytics:

  • Descriptive - Analytics that help you understand how things are going
  • Predictive - Analytics that help you forecast future performance and results
  • Prescriptive - Analytics that suggest a prescribed next step or action

Impact measurement fits within the umbrella of “descriptive” analytics, but mastering this first step enables us to leverage more complex analytics to predict impact and prescribe actions for better impact.

Best practices

  1. Set goals and prioritize data questions: As your organization starts to explore the use of analytics for impact measurement, the best approach is to begin by setting impact goals and using those goals to prioritize data questions. In the context of the Bandit Tour, we used the mission as a guide for the types of questions we ask organizations to assess the effectiveness of their use of Salesforce.
  2. Collect the data: Even before you have the analytics tools to thoroughly measure and assess impact, collecting the data will support future analytics. For the Bandit Tour, we ask participants for data about the effectiveness of their Salesforce instance both in the application process and when we follow up after our trip.
  3. Analyze the data: With this data in hand, the next step is to analyze the data through simple reports, followed by more complex assessments as you grow. Over time, the Bandit Tour has gone from using Salesforce reports to tell the impact story, to leveraging Einstein Analytics to allow us to ask more complex questions of the same data set.
  4. Take Action: Having conducted an analysis of the data, the next, and truly most important, step is to take action on the results. In 2016, we learned that the organizations supported by the Bandit Tour did not improve their ability to leverage Salesforce reports and dashboards from the time of application to three months after the Bandit Tour. So, for 2017 we introduced a new reporting module for each organization.
  5. Repeat: Ultimately, this isn't an end point for impact measurement as each one of these steps should be repeated time and time again!

The path forward

Tackling impact measurement for organizations is not a simple task. Your organization wants to measure true impact as it relates to your mission, but also other metrics required by the organizations that provide you grants, by your donors and, at times, by the community as a whole. Ultimately, your goal is to better predict and prescribe actions for further improvements. You can get there by incorporating analytics into your organization and improving your impact description, but it's important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Start small
  • Set goals
  • Gather good data
  • Analyze
  • Take action
  • And — as you are ready — repeat with growing levels of measurement!

We're looking forward to seeing you at Dreamforce and giving you the chance to see how we leverage Einstein Analytics for Impact Measurement.

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