The data skills every successful charity needs

Want to make data work better for your charity? Here are the core skills you should be nurturing.

Chloe Green | 9th Aug 19
data skills charity

Data is everywhere – knowing how to use and make the most of out the data charities collect and use is now an essential requirement for any charity that wants to drive their impact, be more efficient and truly understand their supporters, donors and service users.

According to the 2019 Charity Digital Skills Report, 59% of charities want to make more effective use of data and 48% wish to use it to improve service delivery. But mastering charity data at its most useful is not just the preserve of data scientists, and it’s not all maths – you too can take the first steps to being a data geek. There are some core soft skills that charities of any size can start nurturing now. And as the expert speakers at our Charity Digital Tech Conference earlier in this year have proven, being smarter with data doesn’t require a data specialist or any cutting-edge solutions.

> See also: The best data resources for UK charities

As Giselle Corey of DataKind UK says in her interview with Zoe Amar: “Hiring data scientists and investing in systems will help. But it’s not just the resources, it’s also the mindset.”

Initiatives like Superhighways and DataKind UK’s can help organisations build their know-how and confidence with data. As Giselle Cory and Tracey Gyateng explain in their recent article, while data may sound glamorous charities need to go back to basics: “See what your data can tell you from some straightforward interrogation, consider if your data plumbing needs fixing (how you store your data) and see if you’re collecting the right data in the first place.”

Alongside basic data literacy, here are three skills that every charity needs:



Good data use starts with the simple curiosity for discovery and a keenness to ask questions. You should be looking at your charity’s services and asking “What data do we already collect? What can we capture? And where can we drive improvements?”

As Superhighways Manager Kate White and Digital Advisor and Training Manager Sorrel Parsons explain in their video from the Charity Digital Tech Conference, having a data mindset requires putting yourself in the shoes of the service user and thinking about the journey they make through the organisation and which parts of that journey can involve capturing useful information.

The video ‘Data capture for smarter mission delivery’ also explains how to more effectively ask questions to get the most useful and credible results, with tips on cost-effective data gathering tools.



At its heart, data is about innovating and the ability to see what has not been seen before. Once data is captured or identified, the key to success lies in the ability to apply that data creatively to problems, as Charity Digital trustee Zoe Amar explains in her blog for JustGiving.

As Trillium’s eBook for charities explains, this also means connecting the dots and bringing different data sets together in novel ways.

DataKind UK’s blog contains a wealth of excellent examples of how data has helped charities better understand need and then use this understanding to inform improvements and come up with new ideas.

And next week we will be hosting a free webinar with digital experts Acquia on how charities can use data to be creative in their marketing and fundraising, and how audience data can inform new ideas to engage with supporters, funders and beneficiaries.

> See also: Leveraging the power of social media for your charity’s social media



It’s all very well having useful data insights, but success lies in how you share them clearly and effectively across the organisation and to key stakeholders. Data visualisation can be a great tool to communicate quickly and accessibly with different audiences, from the public to the trustee board.

In the video below, Katy Murray from NPC looks at the principles behind how to craft successful data visualisations that can be powerful vehicles for charities to tell their most important stories.

The session ‘Getting started with data visualisation’ breaks down what makes a data visualisation effective, providing charities with some useful ways of structuring their approach and signposting some of the best tools to help.