Research Update: Making Data-Driven Decisions

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When moving toward making data-driven decisions, arts organizations can begin by recognizing many of the different data sets generated internally that contain valuable information about their audiences. Here is a brief look at four such data sets and the corresponding reports arts organizations can utilize from them. Each set is broken down with resources, examples and types of information that managers could glean from each data source.

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Ticketing data is valuable for understanding the facts and figures about the people in an organization’s audience. Will Lester, Vice President of Network Programs at TRG Arts, comments “Regardless of staff knowledge, there is now an expectation that your CRM or ticketing system will give you all the answers. Personally, I don’t know of any [systems] that are self-aware. The best systems on the market (and some are EXCELLENT!) still require someone to go in and mind the information.” To better understand how to interpret the numbers in your particular system, refer to the many guides provided by your organization’s software. For example, Blackbaud offers an entire collection of training services just for nonprofits.

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“Merely having a social media presence is not a strong goal,” states Idealware in its “The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.” Idealware lists views, followers, engagement, and conversion as important segments of data that can help create more effective social media strategies. Countless resources are available from the social media websites themselves, from various other sites and blogs (like along with news articles and reports (check out “Insider Tips from the Art World’s Social Media Pros”). Watch e-mails and alerts for insight training from Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, AMT-Lab contributor Caroline Brent is currently researching “Effective Uses of Social Media Management Software.”

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Marketers should review their email campaign data routinely. As email is a popular marketing tool, many people have written reports on tips and best practices. Email enables a marketer “to quickly and easily analyze the effectiveness of your messages and your campaigns to determine your supporters’ interests and to ensure you are giving them the information they want,” explains Convio in their guidebook, “Basics of Email Marketing for Nonprofits.” Often, articles written for small businesses, such as this one from Forbes, include email marketing tips that can easily be interpreted for arts organizations.


Every arts organization should be using website analytics to understand traffic to their site and the relationships present in the online realm. Google offer a special grant just for nonprofits that includes free access to additional resources including apps and optimum ad words. Many people have also written reports recommending strategies to understand an organization’s analytics. For example, this blog post from LunaMetrics on “How a Nonprofit Can Best Use Google Analytics,” explains how an organization can analyze the activity of visitors on its website to understand what pages and content drive donations. Additionally, Google recently launched their Analytics Academy, which offers an organized overview into their particular system with short videos and text guides. The “Beginners Guide to Website Analytics” from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits provides further insight into additional website analytics resources.

With these analytical tools in hand, arts organizations will be better equipped to leverage the power of their internal data to make smart business decisions.