Book Review: "Building Your Analytics Shop: A Workbook for Nonprofits"

In “Building Your Analytics Shop,” Marianne Pelletier sets forth an easy-to-follow process for brainstorming what analytics looks like for your particular organization, how to build consensus with leadership and turn momentum into real deliverables. The book, and its accompanying workbook companion, begins with defining fundraising analytics, and concludes with establishing the timeline for your organization to commence with an analytics program and implement effective change management.

Refreshingly, the book steers clear of easy solutions or cookie-cutter platitudes. It does not attempt to make building an analytics shop adapt to any preconceived notions. Instead, the book’s nine chapters provide guiding principles on how to be introspective about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses so your organization can make decisions involving your data, your dreams and the solutions that will work for you.

Taking a middle road, the book does not make decisions for you, but rather provides the pros and cons of different scenarios and offers guiding questions that help your organization make a choice. Chapter seven, “Build or Buy?”, is an excellent example that includes a pros-and-cons discussion about building your own analytics shop or buying analytics tools or solutions from vendors. Pelletier walks the reader through the considerations of building your own shop, the posture your institution needs to work successfully with vendors and the crafting of a pros-and-cons list for both approaches so you can make the right decision for your organization.

The book is an excellent resource to work through in stages with the key people on your advancement teams so your organization can make a unified decision on analytics. At nine chapters, everyone in your organization who needs a seat at the table could work through a chapter a week and complete the accompanying portion of the workbook companion. You could then gather weekly and discuss the chapter, take inventory of different decisions, and then come to a consensus on your organization’s approach to building an analytics shop.

If you want to dip your toe into analytics but are not ready to build a full-fledged shop, chapters three and four are well worth the read: You can select one or two ideas from the “shopping mall of analytics projects” and get your research shop involved in analytics.

For professionals who may be discussing with leadership how to best establish your own analytics shops, the book provides expert views on how to methodically think through key decisions. This book, with its forthrightness on a multitude of approaches, could save months or years of fits and starts with your nascent analytics shop.

By being descriptive and not prescriptive, Pelletier lays all the cards on the table when it comes to building your own analytics program, offers details on all of the possibilities at each step of the way and lets readers be their own guides in establishing analytics programs.

Thomas T. Turner is director of research and prospect management at International Justice Mission and a member of the Apra Editorial Advisory Committee.

To purchase a copy of “Building Your Analytics Shop,” click here.

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