In graduate school I had a professor who would write “So what?” in the margins of papers. This concise note would appear any time I got bogged down in lengthy explanations, extra examples, or a random side note—a shorthand reminder that I had lost track of the main argument.
Over time, I learned to identify my digressions as evidence that my thinking was not yet clear. When you know what you are saying, you can say it quickly and elegantly. When you do not, you bring in everything that may be relevant. I see the same thing happen over and over with data.
I started as CASE’s chief research and data officer last August, and I cannot think of a more opportune time to step into this role. Our collective experience of profound change over the past year has led us to ask new questions, look at our data in new ways, and care deeply about the answers we find.
The work we do within AMAtlas at CASE is uniquely positioned to help advancement professionals—whether they are in fundraising, alumni relations, marketing and communications, or advancement services—answer the questions that matter the most.
When it comes to data, we often believe more are better. We look at all the metrics we can track, spend hours studying spreadsheets and reports, and then self-righteously cross “look at data” off our list. But after all this effort, we don’t come close to answering, “So what?”
Two things help us overcome this problem: asking the right questions and learning to trust our data. That’s easier said than done, but CASE is here to assist.