Swimwear model or train spotter?
Data isn’t sexy. I think we’re all agreed on that. This is probably why the pointy heads are trying to dress it up in killer heels and a skimpy outfit.
And this is our failing!
I think that by glamorising some parts of what we do, for some people, some of the time, we turn attention away from the 99% of work that fills our time. This would be the unglamorous stuff; cleaning data, re-structuring databases, updating income forecasts, refreshing attrition models (not building them), selecting data in the same way we have done for the last 30 campaigns (all in the name of consistency). This 99% really is a the equivalent of the end of railway platform on a wet day in February.
This trundling procession of work is essential to ensuring the swimwear model can exist. You see, the real problem is not paying scant attention to the minutiae, it is our lack of understanding of the positive benefits that all of this trundling elicits.
For example over the latter half of 2014 I undertook a Gift Aid project for a very valued, but small, client. The headline act is the size of the back-claim I was able to make – a rather glamorous £200,000 to date. To get there I had to sift through several thousand bits of paper, validating the declaration, find the supporter on the database, entering or updating the existing declaration, checking against a scanned image and then if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to file them. It’s no wonder I feel like I have an in-depth master-class on the history of every steam locomotive from the time of Stephenson’s Rocket.
Do I feel the work I did is undervalued? A little bit, yes. But do I feel that it was vital to the immediate project as well as the ongoing financial health of my client? Absolutely.
Make no mistake, this was no small task, but it fails to trigger the eye-glinting emotional response that the big ticket item did. These are invariably the culmination of hours and hours of mind-numbing toil that is the backbone of a strong fundraising team or robust progressive business with an award winning product and top level customer service.
However tempting it is to run off with the model, you’ll find much more is achieved if you hang out at the end of the platform for a while.