Towards a Single Source of Truth for Your Organization's Data
Across the ideological spectrum, political parties and large NGOs are moving towards a new model of data organization. I want to share with you a little about how our clients (and some friends) are leveraging NationBuilder’s tools to make the transition.
Over the years, groups that hold large data sets, like political parties, NGOs, and Higher Ed Institutions have been acquiring more and more in-house, and off the shelf solutions to meet their organizing and campaigning needs. This exponential use of constellations of tech to meet various internal and external needs have willed into existence a new need: a data warehouse capable of reconcile all their other systems against each other.
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If you’re a political party, and NationBuilder powers all your electoral district websites and databases, you might have some connected apps, and a Parent Nation aggregating your people data. But you might also be using Blue State Digital for your central email while your fundraising department is using Salesforce for your major gifts and direct mail.
All of these systems operate in a data silo, working by themselves and are incapable of determining what percentage of direct mail asks are wasted on donors who only donates in response to email, or what voters have a bad address and should be removed from the field targeting program.
To solve our data silo problem we need to establish a central source of truth from which all other systems a flow. This isn’t a CRM-style database, in the NationBuilder or Salesforce sense, but a data warehouse managed by a data professional that contains one master record for each person and organization in your universe, and all the basic data points about those people and organizations.
Each of your organization's other systems are then populated with data from and synced against your single source of truth. When using large Sub Nation deployments this means our parent Nation is reconciled against the master list of people from the Single Source of Truth, and then pushed to the subnations through Tag sharing to create shared records between the parent and subnations.
Feeding accurate, and current data to local campaigns and your activist base empowers them to do good work. When you give your team digital tools populated with current and relevant data they take more effective action, they waste less time touching the same voters, and instead build up a more robust data set of people and their engagement activities.
After our Parent and Sub Nations are set up comes the technically difficult part: syncing all the data. Folks running Sub Nations will know that our engagement data, events data and membership data doesn’t flow up to the parent nation, so we must fetch these data points from each Sub Nation, standardize them, and populate the relevant fields in our SSoT.
Depending on the data important to our campaigns, and the 3rd party services we’re using on top of our Nations, our data team would implement a system of rules & human based verification of data that goes back into the SSOT in order to determine which data sources are the most trusted for each respective field.
This is really just a long way of saying something that I’ve been saying for years: You will benefit from using distributed tech infrastructure if you are:
- Are a chapter-based distributed organisation;
- Looking to decentralise some (or all) of your activities;
- Wanting to give more control and power to your local chapters.