Nonprofits and Data

last person joined: one year ago 

This group is for those interested in learning and sharing about all things data-related for nonprofits. The Nonprofits and Data group is for people using data to serve a mission, either directly or by improving nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. That includes everything from collecting data and managing databases to analytics, data visualization and data mining. Here are some examples of topics we discuss: using data to improve organizational effectiveness, measuring impact, using data for storytelling, tools for data management and analysis, figuring out the “right” data to collect, and learning skills to help us use data better.

Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

  • 1.  Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 17, 2018 10:24
    Edited by Emilio Arocho Oct 17, 2018 10:25
    Hi all,

    Picking up a thread from our KPI community call last week, I'd be curious to know about the data modelling tools you have used in the past, and the features you like/dislike about them. I'll just jump in:

    Pros: Easy to use, have it already, lots of training resources
    Cons: Charts don't look great, I mostly use it for pivot tables

    Power BI
    Pros: Free, Power BI Pro very nearly free, integrates with Office 365
    Cons: Lots of people seem to like Tableau more, feel like I'm missing out ;-)

    Google Data Studio
    Pros: Free, browser based
    Cons: Switching cost (would have to invest a few more hours into figuring it out)

    Salesforce Lightning Experience Dashboards
    Pros: Native Salesforce reporting, accessible from mobile app
    Cons: Can only really look at Salesforce data, and there are strange chart-specific limitations

    Emilio Arocho
    Director, Technology and Digital Strategy
    Food and Drug Law Institute

    Community Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data group.
    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline

  • 2.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 18, 2018 08:10
    I can't say much about Tableau or Power BI as I don't do that level of data work for our organization, but I've been using Data Studio since they launched the beta.  It's been pretty easy to pick up, especially if you're already really comfortable with reports in Analytics.

    What I like about it is we use Google Analytics to track all our websites and I've been the point person for providing all the "what got looked at" data for years.  I always got a lot of questions for new data reports but it's time consuming to pull that info and everyone complained that Analytics itself was too confusing for them to go do themselves.  Data Studio has allowed me to pull together a lot of filtered reports for people so that they can check their own info anytime they want. they have lots of nice visuals and even for my own reporting it's been nice to build a dashboard that has info from what were 6 or 7 separate reports in Analytics.


    Andrea Chempinski
    Associate Director, Online Services
    American Immigration Lawyers Association
    Washington, DC

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  • 3.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 18, 2018 08:32
    This is great information Emilio! Thanks for sharing!

    Sharon Muniz
    Primary Contact
    NCN Technology
    Reston, VA

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  • 4.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 18, 2018 10:44
    The right tool for the right job!

    If you have data analysts with the right set of skills, both PowerBI and Tableau are fantastic tools. Google Data Studio is especially good for analytics data, but it is less good if you're analyzing fundraising data or program data and so forth.

    We've been looking at iDashboards, Slemma and Qlik, which are easier to use for less expert users, and Zoho Reports for those very sensitive to price. There are quite a few others, and in many cases, nonprofits might consider an agency model, where BI work is either wholly or partially outsourced to leverage consultant expertise in the technical setup, ability in using the specific software, creation of queries, dashboards, and reports, and in knowing which are the right kinds of questions to ask.

    We're currently tracking about two dozen products that are suitable for nonprofits who are budgeting less than $1k/month (in some cases MUCH less). Above that price point there are literally hundreds of products.

    Isaac Shalev
    Stamford CT

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline

  • 5.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 19, 2018 05:18
    I recently gave a talk about this very topic:

    We're big fans of Data Studio here because it's free.

    I also like because you can do quite a lot at the free tier. The dashboards are responsive which makes them well suited to display on a monitor. You can chain dashboards together on a autoplay loop. Pull data in from QBO, the CRM, etc to build a realtime fundraising scorecard.

    Andrew Mallis
    CEO & founder @
    Oakland, CA
    925-255-5204 x700

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline

  • 6.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 19, 2018 13:20
    Edited by Medha Nanal Oct 19, 2018 13:21

    I have worked with Excel, Tableau, Google Data Studio Beta and Salesforce Dashboards in Lightning. Not done much with PowerBI but this winter, will be digging in to evaluate it.

    Being a nonprofit database technology consultant that I am, (as well as an NTEN faculty who teaches Data Driven Fundraising as well as preaches organizations the importance of using Data in their daily decision making), I am a fan of tools that run off the data in the database directly, without additional massaging or import/export. IMO, a holy grail of organization's tech savvy is to use a central CRM without any surrounding parallel ecosystem of spreadsheets floating around.

    For this reason, my least preferred tool is Excel (although, excel by itself is not a bad tool at all). Excel's ability to model is great, with number of charting options, however, in most cases where I have seen this, people prepare for board meetings, etc. for days in advance, by exporting the data into excel initially, then massaging it, by creating all sorts of pivot tables and then drawing charts. The presented data is stale, as a result.

    Google Data Studio and Salesforce Lightning Dashboards are evolving products and while both have great deal of innovation going on, they run off specific datasets. I'd watch out for upcoming integrations (especially Data Studio) . In my view, Data Studio has great potential.

    Salesforce Lightning Dashboards is really a UI for Salesforce, and Salesforce has never expressed interest in releasing it as a standalone product, therefore, I think that it is not a fit in this discussion.

    I like Tableau a lot, again, as long as it is run off the right dataset, dynamically. Tableau has integrations with several leading database/CRM platforms, which is a plus in my view. However, it can be heavy for pickup by a small-ish organization.

    Net-net, depending on the size of the team, and the intended purpose, the team could find themselves using one or many of above tools in various contexts. The same person would use a simpler dashboard tool for fundraising, while prefer a much more fancier tool while creating annual reports.

    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline

  • 7.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Oct 19, 2018 13:14
    I made the decision to focus on the Microsoft BI stack about 10 years ago and am a BI architect for a large-ish nonprofit.

    The BI stack is composed of SQL Server or SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), Integration Services (SSIS), Reporting Services (SSRS), and Analytical Services (SSAS).

    SSMS is the back end storage and manipulation platform for data - especially table-oriented data. A ton of applications use SQL Server/SSMS as the place to store transactional data - gifts, client enrollments, survey results, whatever. It is also a handy place to store information generated in other systems - sometimes other relational databases such as Oracle or even other SQL DBs, sometimes times spreadsheets, and a lot of proprietary DB. I consume a lot of PeopleSoft data, for example. For smaller projects SQL Server express is free; enterprise licenses can get pricey, but there's always TechSoup.

    I have some older SQL Server back ends that use MS Access as the front end for data entry and operations. Works good.

    Data in SQL Server DBs is accessible to Tableau, Excel, Power BI, SSRS, Qlikview, and about any other reporting platform.

    SSIS is Microsoft's Extract, Transform, and Load tool. You can create packages that will automatically load spreadsheet and other data source into about any database format. It makes a lot of sense for the destination to be a SQL database, however. With the exception of organizations with sophisticated data warehouses, SSIS is underutilized in the nonprofit sector. Sad, because it's a great way to get something for here to there- often automatically.

    SSRS is Microsoft's reporting environment. It can be a bit of a kludge, but it's so pervasive that if you want to do something, someone else has probably already done it and posted about it on StackOverflow. (On a side note, one of my kids is studying CS and we joke that we think about each other whenever we go to StackOverflow, so it's like 12 times a day).

    SSAS is Microsoft's Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) environment. It's complicated to design, but it's extremely fast in presenting sliced and diced information from complex data sets. Excel loves SSAS database and it has become the defacto standard for self-service business intelligence.

    I wrote about the challenges and opportunities a few years ago here:
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    you'll have to scroll down to page 16.

    Tim Mills-Groninger
    Whiting, IN

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline

  • 8.  RE: Data modeling tool showdown! (not really)

    Posted Dec 18, 2018 07:58
    Hi All,

    I am new to this community and would like to share my views on this topic.

    We recently did a study on the above mentioned data analytics and visualization tools for Nonprofit. In my opinion, Google Data Studio is a clear winner for 3 main reasons:

    a. Power of Connectors: Connectors are like pipes that help data studio access data from google apps like sheets, adwords, google analytics and also 3rd part apps like twitter, tumblr, facebook etc thereby making it convenient for you to see entire data at one place.
    b. Data Blending: Not only you can view data from different sources at one place but can also combine data sets from different sources for concocted visualization.
    c. Advance visualization: Above mentioned features along with rich graphic tools enable advance and effective visualizations.

    One major con of using data studio is initial investment in terms of time to understand the platform and set up your account, but once done, it is immensely rewarding in the long term.

    Would love to hear what others have to say about it.

    Also, If you require help in analytics and data visualization or want to set up analytics dashboards for your organization, you can reach us at

    Thank you.

    COE for Data Visualization
    Skype: rajat.sood_3


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