What is a data strategy?

A data strategy focuses on the purpose of the data you store, and what you are going to do with it. It is a guiding plan that defines the people, processes and technology which will allow your data to support your non-profit organisation’s goals and objectives.

Why does my non-profit need a data strategy?

Data collected, maintained, and used in the right way has the power to transform how your non-profit operates for the better. It is the key which enables you to unlock effective engagement with your audiences and, when harnessed correctly, data can allow you to provide even better services to your members, donors, and stakeholders.

You need a data strategy if you want to turn data into value

4 key questions for a non-profit data strategy

1. What are your strategic priorities?

Creating a data strategy isn’t a standalone activity; it must be driven by your overarching business strategy. Therefore, a critical starting point for any data strategy is the business’s strategic objectives. You need to draw up a data strategy which focuses on your objectives – why you need this data, what you’re going to do with it – as opposed to starting from “this is the data we’ve got”. After all, what’s the point of a data strategy – indeed, what’s the point of data in general – if it doesn’t help you achieve your non-profit’s goals?

2. How can data help reach your goals?

From your strategic goals and understanding your why, it’s time to think about how data can help you get there. Here is where you analyse your data sources, how your data is gathered and where that data currently exists. You can detail what data you need and how you can acquire it. From this process you can identify the core datasets you need and the use you’ll put them to. For data that is already present in your non-profit organisation, you need to identify whether there are any barriers to access that data.

3. What technology and infrastructure do you need to support your data?

By answering the above question you can then look to answer what technology, processes and resources you require to capture, maintain and execute your data strategy.  Are your existing data capture processes effective? Does your current data storage support your needs? What analytic and reporting capabilities do you have vs what you need?

4. How will you report and present insights?

As your organisation continues to acquire data over time, you need to be able to have an overview of the data quickly and easily. Data visualisation tools will allow you to display key information in a user-friendly way, making the data easier to understand and interpret.

Being able to effectively and efficiently visualise your data will allow your organisation to identify and extract meaningful information from it. It will help ensure that your data gets put to good use and support data-driven decision making.


Drawing up a data strategy is no easy undertaking. However, once you have it in place, with the resources allocated to allow you to achieve its objectives, you can truly harness the power of your data to create an effective engagement programme. You will be in a significantly better place to deliver on your mission.

If you would like to find out more about data strategy, download our free guide on Data fundamentals for successful non-profits.