Data is just plain dull to most people

Data is just plain dull to most people

Data is just plain dull to most people5

Fundraising | Jonathon Grapsas | 21 May 2009

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 recently at a conference in Ottawa, Canada. My session was entitled, 'Using donor insights to drive growth in your direct marketing programme'.

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 with informed decision making 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 two 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.

Laurie Pringle
2 Jun 2009

Data is as important to online cultivation and fundraising as it is to DM. It may not be that people aren't interested in data, but that they've seen similar "headlines" before.

How is your session different than the hundreds of other sessions that have been offered in the past? People have attended DM related seminars for ages now.

It's not new to them - or at least they don't think it's new. Perhaps you might partner with an organization whose results are significantly higher as a result of your work and have them co-present?

The fundraising world has grown skeptical about DM promises... they tend to think "yeah, yeah, that's what the last consultant said". So prove it for them... have a panel of clients who can reinforce your message and be your "proof".

Show these folks that they don't really know what you know and make sure that you assign a real dollar value to learning from you. Just my .02 cents.

Jonathon Grapsas
27 May 2009

Well said Danielle, spot on. So the key is to make it 'sexy' to get people's attention, but then to provide useful and meaningful insights that people 'get'.


Danielle Atkinson
22 May 2009

I know what you mean... Sometimes I feel like a broken record when I keep banging on (or that's how I feel), about the importance of data (and understanding who our supporter's are).

Without data there is no direct marketing. It's not a difficult concept, but not a sexy one - that's the difficulty! Mention supporter journeys or stewardship and they would be beating the door down to get in....


Mike Naidu
21 May 2009

Hi Jonathan,

Unfortunately we have the same issue here in the UK. In many charities the database team is likely to be sat away from the fundraisers and not engaged early enough in the process of fundraising. On a practical note, why don't you call your sessions "get more money fast while spending less" and then lock the doors when the room is full?



Jonathon Grapsas
21 May 2009

Hi Mike

Yep, I remember things being fairly similar in that regards in my time in the UK. Interesting/disappointing/worrying to hear things are still the same.. Good suggestion! But seriously, I've started re-working session titles, I have one coming up called "Donor Insights - a dull name for getting the real lowdown on what your donors want, think, believe and will respond to".. Not perfect, but let's see how it goes!





[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Celina Ribeiro (92) Niki May Young (36) Jonathon Grapsas (29) Michael Naidu (23) Kirsty Weakley (21) Adrian Beney (20) Andrew Scadding (20) Andrew Chaggar (17) Vibeka Mair (15) Suzie Who (15)
Jonathan Waddingham (14) David Philpott (14) Robert Ashton (12) Tania Mason (11) Jenna Pudelek (9) David Burrows (8) Leon Ward (7) Emily Corfe (7) Alistair McLean (6) Beth Yorath (6) Tobin Aldrich (6) David Ainsworth (6) Lucy Caldicott (5) Joe Saxton (5) Stephen Pidgeon (5) Reuben Turner (5) Rowena Lewis (5) Stephen Cotterill (5) Mark Astarita (4) Tony Elischer (4) Tod Norman (4) Ian Clark (4) Alan Gosschalk (3) Richard Radcliffe (3) Pauline Broomhead (3) Jeremy Swain (3) Gordon Hunter (3) Ingrid Marson (3) Lisa Clavering (3) Alice Sharman (3) Adam Rothwell (2) Beth Breeze (2) Matthew Bowcock (2) Cathy Pharoah (2) Ian MacQuillin (2) Tris Lumley (2) John Tate (2) Garreth Spillane (2) Liz Tait (2) Chester Mojay-Sinclare (2) Allan Freeman (2) Dan Corry (2) Claire Routley (2) Making Good: The Future of the Voluntary Sector (2) Lindsay Boswell (1) Victoria Cook (1) David Davison (1) Bill Lewis (1) Giles Pegram (1) Jo Swinhoe (1) Derek Humphries (1) Alan Clayton (1) Stephen George (1) Andy Taylor (1) Gordon Michie (1) Chris Ingram (1) Martin Farrell (1) Morag Fleming (1) Matt Goody (1) Paul Farthing (1) Jackie Mendoza (1) Max Du Bois (1) Alan Hawkes (1) Ken Burnett (1) Ian Allsop (1) Martin Brookes (1) Rodney Buse (1) Tesse Akpeki (1) Anne Moynihan (1) Sara Llewellin (1) Rupert Tappin (1) Julia Unwin (1) Jessica Sklair (1) Stephen Hammersley (1) Keith Collins (1) Joe Jenkins (1) Peter O'Hara (1) Debbie Attwood (1) Joanna Motion (1) Paul Marvell (1) Amanda McLean (1) Jason Suckley (1) Paul Amadi (1) Imogen Ward (1) June O'Sullivan (1) Kath Abrahams (1) Peter Lewis (1) Douglas Rouse (1) Belinda Pratten (1) Jonathan Last (1) Jenni Cahill (1) Paul Emery (1) Marcelle Speller (1) Nick Aldridge (1) Philip Spedding (1) Tom Latchford (1) Sir David Varney (1) Liam Barrington-Bush (1) Lucy Gower (1) Jeff Brooks (1) Vicki Prout (1) Dawn Austwick (1) Dan Thompson (1) Steven George-Hilley (1) Emma-Lynn Houghton (1) Peter Horah (1) Neelam Makhijani (1) George Matafonov (1) Marcus Missen (1) Denise Lillya (1) Jaz Nannar (1) Ali Stunt (1) Robin Fisk (1) Gillian Claugher (1) Lynne McMahon (1) Emma Callagher (1) Angharad McKenzie (1) Raj Rajukumar (1) Eudora Pratt (1) Hugh Radojev (1)
Less +++ More +++

The long and unhappy saga of the Local Sustainability Fund

29 Jun 2015

Last week the government announced a £20m pot of funding for charities. This sounds like good news, says...

Government can't ask charities to compete for contracts while savaging council spending

15 Jun 2015

The government cannot tell charities they must compete for contracts in a market while slashing the spending...

'Northern Powerhouse'? Almost as clearly defined as the big society

4 Jun 2015

Ian Allsop talks tomatoes and why charities should look north for income growth opportunities under the...

Society is changing in ways that have specific consequences for volunteering

22 Jun 2015

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, explains why charities need to respond to changes in...

Society Diary: Miley Cyrus takes off her clothes, cuddles a pig and talks about charity

12 Jun 2015

Our weekly round-up of interesting and outlandish information, collected from the corners of the charity...

Is it time for charities to fight back on chief executive pay?

10 Jun 2015

The charity sector has suffered in silence through repeated attacks on its leaders over their pay, but...