RZ - stock.adobe.com

Interview: How a fundraiser became more data-savvy

We speak to a fundraiser in the charity sector about how an apprenticeship in data analytics has given her Excel, PowerBI and Power Query skills

Data analysis is critical in the charitable sector but research has found that charities in the UK are missing out on funding due to poor data management.

The Sagacity survey of 50 finance and revenue professionals in UK charities and not-for-profits found that almost half (47%) of charity revenue leakage can be traced back to problems with data. Lack of oversight along with poor processes, governance and controls were found to have contributed to revenue leakage of £835m per year.

In January, training provider Corndel, in partnership with Imperial College Executive Education, ran a Data Learner Networking event at Imperial College Business School. Computer Weekly spoke to Emma Liney, who attended the event. Liney works as a community fundraiser at Claire House Hospice, which helps seriously and terminally ill children.

Liney is part of Hospice UK’s Data Academy cohort, which provided 96 learners from 64 different hospices with the opportunity to enhance their data skills and knowledge through the Imperial College and Corndel Data-Driven Professional Programme. This was enabled by over £1m in gifted levy from Corndel’s corporate partners. 

Liney’s data journey began during lockdown, when she found she had “a lot more time in my role to look at our database and kind of clean up some data and do bits and bobs”. While she admits she did not really know much about what she was doing, the experience she gained piqued an interest in data.

In 2023, Liney attended a data and insight fundraising conference with her manager, which she says opened her eyes to how big a part data plays in fundraising. Her manager later received an email about the Imperial and Corndel Data-Driven Professional Programme and recommended Liney apply.

While her husband, who is doing a similar course, and her colleagues could show her a few things in Microsoft Excel, she says: “It was really about not knowing where to look to find out how to use it.”

“Before joining the programme, I didn’t understand how data could sit within my role. It’s amazing what I can now do for both my team and the wider hospice team. Now we make decisions based on analysing results and data”
Emma Liney, Claire House Hospice

For instance, she points out that a Google search on how to do something in Excel returns hundreds of videos, some of which she found hard to understand. “That was the intimidating part,” she says.

Discovering the power of data

While it started with her wanting to understand more about Excel, through the programme she discovered the power of data in shaping effective strategies, supporting data analytics and data-driven decision-making at work.

The online course guided Liney through the basics of Excel all the way to using Power BI and Power Query. “It’s all been very staged and it’s very easy to follow, so nothing’s been intimidating,” she says. 

Along with the online training, the programme includes a monthly workshop on Teams with other apprentices from the charity sector. There is also a fireside chat with an expert. The most recent one Liney attended covered the topic of decision-making in times of uncertainty.

This begs the question of whether data can really tell the whole truth. “There will be times where the data is telling us one thing and our guts will be telling us something different. And because we work in the community, sometimes our gut is right,” says Liney.

Liney spends a fifth of her working week on the apprenticeship programme and has been able to apply the takeaways from the online lessons to her work. “I’ve built a lot of dashboards on Power BI. These are going to benefit us for years to come because they can be automatically updated with new monthly data,” she says.

“My role is to engage with the community to fundraise, but also to use data to make decisions on who to target for different fundraising strategies,” she adds. “Before joining the programme, I didn’t understand how data could sit within my role. It’s amazing what I can now do for both my team and the wider hospice team. Now we make decisions based on analysing results and data. Being able to make data-based decisions for care, for fundraising, and all sorts of areas across the organisation has such a big impact.”

Read more about data analytics

  • A Microsoft Azure platform and PowerBI have provided workers at Heathrow Airport with a way to use analytics directly to help them improve their performance.
  • Data-driven insights and artificial intelligence are helping Air Canada to find a new business path as it expands its cargo business.

Read more on Business intelligence and analytics

Data Center
Data Management