Book Review: Building Your Analytics Shop: A Workbook for Nonprofits

PelletierBookCoverPublishing houses have traditionally been the gate-keepers to well-written, well-edited books. When I find out a book I want to buy is self-published, it always makes me pause. One jumbled, self-published text full of painful grammar errors is enough to create that reaction. When Marianne Pelletier gave me a copy of her new, self-published book for review, Building Your Analytics Shop: A Workbook for Nonprofits, I couldn’t help but notice that she had hired someone to edit the book. It was an auspicious sign!

Who Should Read This Workbook?

This book is written for those in a leadership role, but probably not in a top leadership role; someone who has to make the decision and drive the process for adding analytics to the organization’s capabilities. Having had Pelletier teach an analytics course at the Prospect Research Institute, I was expecting a more technical text. Instead, Pelletier gives wide berth to personality types, delivering a big picture on the process, but enough detail to make decisions or pursue technical knowledge if interested.

While she clearly expects the reader to have fundraising knowledge – she doesn’t tell you what a CRUT is – Pelletier also assumes that the reader is likely to have familiarity with some analytics terminology. However, familiarity does not always equate with understanding and Pelletier knowingly tucks in clear definitions along the way when it matters most.

Where Does It Take You?

In the first five chapters, Pelletier carefully builds a foundation by walking you through an assessment of what you are already doing and then takes you thoughtfully through a series of project examples and vignettes, helping you evaluate your readiness and where you want to begin.

Chapter six is full of great advice for the decision-maker in charge of figuring out what to do first. She understands that change is achieved incrementally with fits and starts. This includes sage advice such as the following:

The advice I give most often is to implement one new program or process, usually the one that has garnered the most buy-in from all staff, and then normalize it before moving on. Another approach is to tackle the project that alleviates the largest pain point for management or for your key fundraisers. (p62)

By chapter seven she has built you up to the big-picture decisions involved in building an analytics program in-house, hiring out, or some combination. Once you have made your decision and have your plan to start, the last two chapters discuss how to make it happen in your organization, from creating buy-in from affected parties, to martialing the resources, to rolling out the results from your early analytics endeavors.

While she only alludes to creating a marketing plan for your new analytics initiative, she gives you much to consider in the form of pacing, objections, distractions, and getting derailed by too much interest after initial success.

Is it Worth the Purchase Price?

The book has 84 pages of text with an additional eight pages of additional resources, annotated. The pre-purchase price is $39.95 and after March 1st it goes up to $49.95. Having paid up to $60 or more for similar-sized books on niche topics, this comprehensive book is well worth its price tag. Pelletier is a seasoned analytics expert with much to offer.

Following are some additional reasons I believe this workbook is a good value:

  • You can download worksheets to complement the text, effectively creating your business plan as you go.
  • At each stage of the process leading you to action, Pelletier references extra resources you can use to help you assess and make decisions.
  • While the book is not deeply technical, when Pelletier does get technical her summary paragraphs pull it together for you, providing you with enough information to talk intelligently about the topic.
  • Throughout the book, Pelletier refers to others in the analytics field and specifically the fundraising analytics field. Not to be underestimated, you can now seek out those names at the next conference you attend.

Best of all, each chapter naturally and coherently follows the other, making Building Your Analytics Shop: A Workbook for Nonprofits a pleasure to read and a book you will likely reference many times in your journey to build an analytics shop at your organization.