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The Story and the Numbers

December 1, 2009

A malnourished child eats regularly for the first time and begins to heal. An orphan in Zambia comes to a Bible Camp and gives his life to Christ. A mother and daughter without any income are welcomed into a woman’s shelter and they get back on their feet. A Pastor in the Congo is given a small study library and his begins to develop a solid theological foundation that transforms his ministry.

Ministry marketing tends to focus on the anecdotal stories and that’s ok. Your constituents relate to the stories and the stories demonstrate the need and the solution well. Stories are easy to develop because your staff knows these stories. They affirm your ministry. Stories are good. Scripture is essentially God’s story.

Ministry management needs to be in touch with these stories and have a feel for the needs of those they serve, but ministries are too large, too diverse, and too complex, and the need too critical, for ministry management to plan strategy based on anecdotal evidence alone. Ministry management needs real numbers to see the big picture and understand the key trends. I believe there are three primary reasons why ministries tend to fail in the area of good numbers:

1)      Ministry executives are trained in the essence of their ministry, not in analyzing data.

2)      The correct raw data is often not readily available for analysis.

3)      The analysis and business intelligence tools are inherently complex and expensive.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to develop good numbers – it’s even difficult to know which number or which trends are worth watching – but in today’s economy and with the growing global needs, analyzing your ministry is more important today than ever. Fortunately, the database industry has been focusing on business intelligence (BI) – the science of analyzing the raw data and identify key trends – for the past decade, and that feature set is finally trickling down to the application level. Commercial CRM applications are beginning to add automated BI features. In time, automated BI tools, KPIs, and trending analysis will be a competitive feature in ministry management software as well.

As you work with your ministry management / donor management /CRM system keep in mind that it’s not just an donor receipt application, there’s a story hidden in those number that you need to understand.


CRM and Business Intelligence in the news:

Gartner report analyzes five key CRM trends: cloud computing,  BI, social computing, the web, and unified communications

Is It Donor Management Software Or Business Intelligence? article in NonProfit Times

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