Limited time, skills and a lack of integration could leave not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) trailing behind in the Big Data rush compared to their profit-making counterparts in industry, according to a study published by Advanced Business Solutions. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The study found that a surprising 96% of NFP organisations, including charities and membership bodies, are now struggling to manage, decipher and capitalise on the terabytes of data they already hold about their members and supporters.

The 'Advanced NFP: State of the Nation' report revealed that nearly all NFP organisations are struggling to effectively collect and analyse valuable data which, as a result, threatens to erode their hard-won supporter loyalty. The research also noted that 75% of the NFPs surveyed say they just don't have the time, skills or funds to resolve these issues, ultimately threatening their long-term success.

Almost all (96%) of respondents said they "ould make better use of the data they already have" with most not having accurate data about organisational effectiveness, marketing effectiveness, service users or projects, their members and/or supporters, employees and even finances.

Data management and storage methodologies vary widely between organisations and many face a daily struggle to report in a consistent and effective way. Some 87% enter the same data more than once and 80% have difficulty producing reports that require data from different systems. As a result, 78% reported conflicting data and 69% said they have difficulty in understanding their data, or reports from different parts of the organisation.

"In this highly digitalised, data-centric environment, organisations that can extract behavioural insights from customer data and transform them into 'sticky' services, will be in a stronger position to attract new supporters, as well as engage and retain existing audiences," explained Simon Fowler, managing director for Advanced Business Solutions. "The inability to manage data to gain a competitive advantage is the single biggest threat facing NFPs; they risk falling behind in this data-driven era."

The report concluded that the trend of incremental technology investment has left NFPs with a tangled network of disparate systems that are not integrated, with 66% reporting "no integration between front and back-office systems", and 60% reporting that they have "no overarching CRM/data management plan" for their organisation - both of which are factors that negatively impact the way NFP organisations are managed, rapidly becoming barriers to key efficiencies.

Despite the economic challenges, recent statistics published by Halifax show that Britons are digging deep for good causes with 76% donating the same or more to charities now than before the economic downturn began. With this in mind, the challenge for charities is to ensure they are engaged directly with supporters - both existing and potential - particularly as new personalised and crowd-funded methods of raising money are rapidly taking hold.

"Charities and membership bodies operate within extremely tight and hard-won budgets and are not investing the time and resources to maximise the data they have on their audiences. The threat is that unless they interpret and act on customer data and get to grips with new channels such as social networks, members and supporter numbers will wane. By failing to integrate and streamline back-office processes, there is the additional risk that hard-earned public and member funds are wasted," concluded Fowler.