In our February Water Cooler Chat, we were asked if it were possible to do a word cloud from contact reports using Excel because it’s a tool that is familiar and used often.
Although it is possible, the process is clunky. Since Excel wasn’t built to do word clouds, the process does require the use of a macro.
Typically when the Staupell team does word clouds, our tool of choice is Tableau.
If you’re adventurous and want to dive into using Excel for creating your Word Cloud, here are the steps. Watch this video for detailed instructions.
Summary of Steps:
In the world of nonprofit data management, we work really hard to smart code all of our interactions with our audience so that we can successfully report on them. However, we work in a relationship industry and that often requires detailed explanation, which, translated to data speak, is free text. And there is our conundrum.
Processing free text is the domain of artificial intelligence, a discipline that we nonprofit data scientists are learning now. The new processing program, Python, even has a package called Beautiful Soup which parses websites, the text within them, and the HTML tags marking any variety of content. The R program also has a package called SentimentAnalysis which assigns a sentiment to different words by using the package’s dictionary, called a lexicon.
But we can do some of this analysis without an artificial intelligence program. Here are some steps to work your way into trying out text parsing, starting with the easy stuff and working toward the sophisticated stuff.
There was a study that I heard about years ago (and I wish I could find it now) where a suicide hotline identified through data science the keywords that indicated that the caller really meant to cause self-harm. To me, that is the best use of text analytics. Your work, since you are in a nonprofit, is also for a noble cause.
Try some of these tricks and see what you can glean from contact reports. And let us know what you find.
Every moment of down time in fundraising is a gift.
We often try to make up for low budgets by spending more time. However, at some point, we have to reduce the time that we spend on tasks in order to meet the increasing demands of our jobs. Or, at best, we need breathing room because no being – human or machine – can run at full speed continually.
Here are 7 suggestions for using your January downtime (or any downtime you may find throughout the year) that you may have to reduce administrivia and free up time for better work.
1. Clean off your desk.
You lose time looking for things. Having a good filing system and putting away all your stuff makes it easy to retrieve what you need while you’re dashing off to that next meeting. I have a habit of cleaning off my desk as part of my New Year preparations (I know, I’m a geek).
2. Organize your workspace to suit you.
I am left-handed, so most of the workspaces that I have been assigned to did not suit me. I moved my screen around and used the desk drawers differently from their design. It made me less irritable and more productive.
As an example, there are Shaker desks where the drawers are on the side of the desk, not on the front. They were made that way when one Shaker brother noticed his Shaker sister getting more and more cross while she was sewing because she banged her knee whenever she wanted to retrieve materials.
3. Make cheat sheets.
Though most documentation is electronic now, a printed cheat sheet in a protective sleeve saves you from having to Google what screen in SalesForce shows contact reports, for example.
4. Build group lists in your email program.
It’s annoying to lose 20 minutes to a “Why wasn’t I in on that email?” tirade. Build groups and forget about it. This preparation works especially well for me when I’m on a committee.
5. Build macros.
When you do repeated reports and you have to take several steps in Excel (or any other program), you lose time. Creating a macro in Excel, a routine in R, and a hotkey in Word all reduce typing time and errors.
6. Figure out what new reports you need.
If you regularly request the same custom report, ask your reporting team to add it to the standard report suite.
7. Learn something new.
Studying is best done in quiet offices. Ask me how I know!
I hope some of these ideas help bring new energy into your work. After all, everything you do is for a good cause – literally.
Feel free to write to me or comment below with some of your favorite shortcuts to make your fundraising year easier.
It’s a Thankful Time of Year
In our recent Water Cooler Chat, we talked about how to automate stewardship to some extent. We Staupellians are passionate about automation because it gives us time for creative work.
Traditionally, a variety of cultures and religions see this time of year as the time to reconnect with family and give gifts. Some countries also celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday, starting off a string of winter holidays that go through to January 6, which is traditionally Saint Distaff Day or the day that everyone returns to their spinning wheels (and distaffs).
Negotiating Scary Times
This month’s theme is “Scary Moments in Fundraising” (see our Water Cooler chat, here). I prefer to talk in optimistic terms, so writing a follow-up blog post rather puts me off. However, like it or not, we are living in scary times. Even if we are vaccinated, we are watching world leaders start wars and our national leaders pick snowball fights instead of governing. Watching these events leaves me feeling foolish that I continue talking about fundraising planning techniques. Is there a way forward, anyway?
I grew up in poverty. One of the lessons of poverty is this: If a resource appears, use it. The second is that anything can be a resource. I have used this scrapper skill set during my career, most recently during the 2009 economic crisis, where my team identified wealth still available and my organization shifted from major gift cultivation to making annual giving asks.
Here are some ideas: (you knew that I would pivot back to optimism, right?)