"We want a 360 degree view of our supporters," or "We can offer you a 360 degree view of your supporters" are much-loved expressions these days. By charities and by CRM vendors. And when it's said, everyone nods their head earnestly and agrees, Yes, that's exactly what we need. And why wouldn't you? It sounds great! But does everyone really understand what they mean by a 360 degree view? It may sound simple/obvious (?) but is it really?
Let's have a look at a few definitions I found with a quick online search:
- Experian: "A 360 degree customer view gives a full picture of your customer and is essential for your organisation." Essential? Ooer.
- Aberdeen Group: "Buyers [donors] benefit from better service and efficiency, and sellers [fundraisers] derive improved loyalty and, inevitably, more repeat business from established customers." Okay, that sounds better.
- 360degreeview.com: "The 360° Customer View creates an integrated view of the customer – right across your enterprise. It gives you a business framework for integrating, enhancing, managing, and analyzing customer information, and allows for customized, phased implementations that deliver measurable business benefit." Wow, that sounds amazing!
- Purple Vision: "Everything you know about each supporter in one place." Ah, good - nice and simple.
So, why would someone want a 360 degree view?
One of the most common data - and thus fundraising - issues for a charity is that there are so many data silos in an organisation; i.e. multiple databases and spreadsheets. And therefore, we can't see every contact point (often called "touch points" if you're being data-cool) which a donor or supporter has had with us.
And if that is the case, then: we might be contacting them without knowing specific things about them; we might contact them inappropriately; different people might contact them without knowing a key point about the supporter; multiple people might contact them at the same time for different reasons and risk losing, say, a key donation; we might not be maximising the most we could get from a supporter; we might not be keeping up with data protection/FOI requirements; we might not be able to analyse a supporter/groups of supporters as comprehensively as we could do - and as importantly as all that, we might not be treating the supporter as they would like to be treated.
These are all good reasons for potentially wanting a 360 degree view.
So what about the data itself?
But even if we want a 360 view and we know why we want it, then what should that view show? Does it really have to show "everything" about a supporter? And even if it should do, can it?! Can we ever see/collect all contact points?
I guess, ideally, yes it should show everything - that is the only way to really see a "complete" picture of a supporter. But how do we really know we are collecting everything? Is everyone in the charity entering every interaction with every supporter? Unlikely. Or even if they are, then it could well be on a local version of Outlook, a spreadsheet somewhere, a third-party online database.
I should also clarify "everything". A 360 degree view does not necessarily mean creating one behemothic, single database which is your only database where you store all your data. Very often, a 360 degree view (almost by definition of "view") will just contain key data sourced from multiple databases within your organisation - just enough to ensure it can do... whatever it is you are trying to do with the 360 system.
So do you really want one?
Could be. Their potential benefits can be great. And don't let my last few paragraphs stop you from trying to create your 360 degree view if you do decide it is right for you! Even if we can't definitely say we are collecting everything, then that isn't a reason not to try to set-up a 360 degree view if you see the benefits of having one for your organisation and your needs. Just be aware it might not be everything. Start-off with what you know and build it up as you find more sources, more people who might use it and as you identify more benefits from doing so.
Finally, assuming you do have multiple systems at your organisation - highly likely no matter how centralised you try to make a centralised CRM/fundraising database - then there is always the technical challenge of actually achieving a 360 degree view. That is not always as easy as one might hope.