Data Geek

Michelle Soverino is today’s featured member! She’s the head of NHA’s Altru Power User team, so she’s got some great advice on how to get buy in from your entire staff … including humor. Get to know her below:

Title: Membership & Development Coordinator
Location: Nantucket, MA
Length of Employment w. Org: 3 Years
Length of Career in Current Field: 6 Years

Who do you report to? Who do you manage?

I report to the NHA’s Director of Advancement. I don’t manage administrative staff people—we’re all about the team approach, but I do manage projects (like the Altru conversion in 2012) and the NHA’s membership programs. Both these charges involve circling wagons and leading teams or key staff people.

Describe the role of your position in your org.

I am the active NHA database administrator and that means I get to spend a lot of quality time with Altru. Our relationship began in January of 2012 when the conversion process started and it’s been charging forward ever since. Data hygiene; data collection; streamlining processes; thinking through the NHA’s data needs in terms of input and output; educating staff through troubleshooting and trial—it’s all in my domain. I chair the NHA’s Altru Power Users group (this select group of key stakeholders were also on the conversion team), manage metrics to measure success, advise on the data components of big picture development projects such as the Year End Appeal and Annual Report, and am the current contact person for all things Altru. Beyond Altru, I am responsible for the NHA’s membership programs which provide the organization with 10% of its annual operating revenue.

What was your experience prior to this position? Do you think it prepared you?

I worked for the Egan Maritime Institute (EMI), also located on Nantucket, an organization dedicated to celebrating the island’s seafaring heritage via the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum and its publishing arm, Mill Hill Press. I started at EMI fresh out of college and was brought in to assist the executive director with a capital campaign. By the time I left the organization three years later I was managing its annual giving; coordinating all of its marketing and PR needs including the design of all materials; packing book sales and making deliveries; spearheading exhibition openings, lectures, and book launches; reconciling contributed revenue monthly with the organization’s controller; producing all donor communications; and managing the database, which included both donors and museum objects (insert frustrated face here). EMI provided a wonderful foundation to build my career upon, and greatly prepared me for the NHA and all things Altru.

What is your day to day like?

My role within the NHA’s Advancement Department comes with many hats. On any given day I am coordinating membership mailings, planning member events, running revenue totals and calculating year-to-date achievements against goals, leading an Altru training session for senior interpreters, assisting curatorial with graphic needs for the latest exhibition, uploading contact lists to Constant Contact (after exporting them from Altru), printing replacement membership cards, stopping by the Altru Community and checking out the latest posts, entering dues, writing sponsorship proposals, drafting acquisition plans for the summer season, drafting meeting agenda’s for my Altru Power Users team, anxiously opening mail… you know, the usual stuff.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I really enjoy working with data. It has the potential to harness numbers into insight, and insight into strategic plans and moves. Big picture talk really excites me and I truly enjoy the continuous need to expand my Altru knowledge base and relate it to the NHA’s goals.
My favorite task though is a different story. For every agenda I draft for my Altru Power Users I incorporate a cartoon related to the topics on-deck. Googling “data hygiene cartoon” or “data best practices cartoon” has become a monthly highlight for me. I’m all about humor in the office—it’s a great way to cut through the stress and help build the bonds of camaraderie. I also like to leave cartoons of the NHA’s whale skeleton around the office to amuse my non-Altru-using colleagues.

What are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge I face at the NHA is working through technology with those who are not comfortable with it. I have become very appreciative of the fact that I grew up in a decade where awesome massive, boxy computers operating in MS-Dos were part of the curriculum at public school.

How do you measure success currently?

I’m all about numbers. I measure my success as a fundraiser based on attrition, retention, acquisition, and revenue. As a database administrator, I measure my success on how well all my Altru users are doing (error rates and improvement rates), which isn’t always a numbers game: understanding of process and completion of process are big topics at the moment. The NHA has come a long way with Altru, and the future is a beautiful place! We, as a collective, improve with every passing day and I enjoy watching that evolution.

What are your goals for 2013?

My goals for 2013 are to:
1. Draft plan for data collection practices that do not inhibit the visitor experience
2. Draft plan for long-term data hygiene practices
3. Meet my acquisition goal for the year, which represents 14% of my overall goal
4. Meet that overall goal
5. Spend as much time as possible at the beach with my lovely Norwegian Elkhound, Takoda