Ninety-six per cent of the UK's not-for-profit organisations, including Cancer Research UK, are unable to manage increasingly large amounts of customer data, which is hitting fundraising, and potential to expand, as the world moves into the big data age.
So says a report from Advanced Computer Software, which also reveals that 75 per cent of these companies say they lack time, skills and funding to even begin to put the situation right.
Sixty-five per cent of the 1,000 not-for-profits surveyed said that they cannot name a single accurate source of data that describes the effectiveness of their organisation, while 58 per cent said effectiveness of marketing campaigns could similarly not be nailed down by data insight.
Worryingly, 19 per cent of third sector respondees said they had no single accurate data source on their own finances.
Eighty per cent of companies in the survey also stated that they have problems producing reports that require data from different systems, while 78 per cent consistently found conflicting data or reports from those different systems. To sum up, 72 per cent of third sector organisations believe decisions are habitually being made without sufficient data to back them up.
Lack of spare capacity, lack of money to invest or unwillingness to operate data in siloes were all cited as high-ranking reasons why organisations feel they are unable to repair these gaps in their big data strategies.
This week, almost £20,000 was accidentally donated to Unicef instead of Cancer Research, as those choosing to support a "No make-up selfie" campaign ended up sending money to polar bears instead. Typing "donate" rather than "beat" in the donation text was the source of this particular faux pas, as both charities shared the phone number 70099.
Anthony Flack, a consultant at Indigo-Blue Consultancy, commented that "not-for-profit organisations seldom collaborate with one another; they see one another as competition," and urged them to change this.
"The reality is that they could save a lot of money by collaborating in the back office and sharing back-office services."
Stewart Johns, of public sector consulting firm Prederi, stated that a change of culture, as well as technology, could be the key to helping third sector organisations begin to capitalise better on big data.
"A real issue is getting people to stop doing what they were previously doing.
"Our natural instinct is to carry on doing what we were doing before, but organisations need to be quite aggressive in ensuring that unnecessary manual work has been stopped. In an organisation I was working with, the technology had been put in place to automate a process but I discovered that the people who used to do the process were now using that time to check that the system was producing the correct result."