For decades, nonprofits have relied on filing cabinets, Excel spreadsheets, and other manual processes to run their organizations. Casework inevitably stacks up. Reports remain untouched until someone manually enters the information into a database or software system. And although staff members are consistently inundated with a high volume of work, many organizations still haven’t invested in more tech-savvy tools to keep up with demand.
Nonprofits are sitting on a treasure trove of data. Each piece of paper tossed into a filing cabinet has the potential to transform into an actionable insight. But what do we do with this data once it’s gathered? How do we create value? And how do we transform data into information that will not just inform but also preempt the behaviors we need to make? Data science, and more specifically predictive analytics for nonprofits.
Predictive analytics is the process of extracting information from historical data sets to identify patterns and predict future outcomes and trends. What predictive analytics is not is a crystal ball. It doesn’t tell you what will happen in the future. It forecasts what might happen with a level of data-driven reliability and by using what-if scenarios and risk assessment.
With the right software, nonprofits have an invaluable opportunity. They can harness the power of predictive analytics to predict trends or insights about their constituents. Here’s how predictive analytics is transforming the nonprofit industry (and how it can transform your organization in 2019).
PREDICTIVE TECHNOLOGY + HUMAN EXPERIENCE = THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
To make predictions effectively, organizations need to be able to rely on the integrity of the data they collect. When you add multiple steps between client intake and software, the process can become clunky. For instance, let’s say a caseworker speaks with a client and fills out an intake form. They add the form to a tall stack of paper. Then, if and when a staff member has time, they have to re-enter that data into a system manually. Not only is this tedious, but it also leaves nonprofits susceptible to unreliable data because of typos or accidental oversight.
Implementing software to help with data entry minimizes some of these issues for nonprofits. First, by reducing the need for reentry reduces the possibility of errors. Second, by requiring data fields to be complete so nothing is overlooked.
This high-quality data then creates a positive ripple effect. Less typing equals less opportunity for mistakes and more time for nonprofit workers to spend serving their communities. And as it relates to predictive analytics, it also means more reliable predictive algorithms that are better equipped to provide actionable insights.
There are millions of data points that a nonprofit must examine to create data-driven recommendations. Outcomes-based management systems that use predictive analytics can act as complementary tools for humans who also rely on real, human experiences to guide their case management. Having software with predictive capabilities on your side is like adding numerous data scientists to your team. This gives you the best of both worlds: technological precision and human instincts. With their powers combined, technology and humans gives your team more time to make life-changing decisions that will impact your clients for the better!
SHARING DATA FOR THE BETTERMENT OF YOUR CONSTITUENTS
One of the most attractive aspects of predictive analytics is that it isn’t just beneficial for one nonprofit sector. It’s a capability that allows organizations in all sectors and across the globe to further their missions. This means nonprofits across a variety of sectors can work together to share their respective data sets and better serve their communities.
In the education sector, Social Solutions’ Apricot 360 integrates predictive analytics and data science to give nonprofits more informed insights into the students they’re helping. Based on statistical patterns, the system can highlight when a student begins exhibiting behaviors that indicate they are about to drop out of the program. Known indicators, such as missing tutoring sessions, are monitored, but predictive analytics systems shine when they highlight new indicators for the organization.
For instance, perhaps an increase in free lunches claimed by a student at school correlates to dropout risk. Or maybe a student is scoring at a seventh-grade reading level but is only in fifth grade. Connected data between the school system and the nonprofit combined with the power of predictive analytics can drastically improve the situation and success rates for both of these students. Student #1 can get the support and resources they need to ensure they stay in school. Student #2 can be placed in an accelerated program that both stimulates and challenges them academically.
This type of collaboration and human-augmented technology has the power to improve and transform countless student lives. Now that’s holistic service delivery!
PREDICT THE FUTURE FROM A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH
Predictive analytics gathers current and historical data to make predictions about future events. This type of predictive intelligence occurs daily. For example, Netflix provides personalized recommendations for movies and shows, while dating apps attempt to “match” partners based on compatibility. We have become so accustomed to personalization that it’s easy to take its convenience for granted.
Imagine Netflix recommendations didn’t just pop up on your TV screen. What if they emailed you recommendations? Then, after you received the email, you had to call their support line to verify you received the suggestion. Finally, imagine the person on the other line had to give you a unique code to unlock the show or movie you want to watch. Talk about a nightmare!
Predictive analytics is useful because all of the information needed to make predictions and provide recommendations is located in one, consolidated software system. If a nonprofit is using several repositories across multiple applications, it’s harder to get a clear picture of its constituents.
Rather than sifting through siloed data points, using a software solution with predictive capabilities as a single source of truth helps nonprofits more efficiently identify patterns and address possible data-driven solutions moving forward.
DON’T REACT, PREDICT
The value of predictive analytics doesn’t hinge on how much data your nonprofit gathers. It does, however, rest on your organization’s ability to listen to the data and offer real-time solutions. Intelligent technology combined with human experience helps organizations to predict instead of merely react.
While predictive analytics might seem like it’s out-of-reach, it’s increasingly becoming a reality for nonprofits to use today. See how Social Solutions is incorporating predictive analytics to help nonprofits serve their communities, transform lives, and further their missions each day.