A few years before the pandemic, Kelly McKenna got a clear sense of how powerful well-managed data can be. She was working at an Illinois nonprofit that was trying to efficiently coordinate immunization efforts. But easily accessible data could often be years out of date, or included statewide averages that made it hard to identify areas that needed the most help.
With some digging, though, McKenna found some more granular school-level data that made for better planning around childhood immunizations. “That way, we were able to identify areas where immunization rates were troublingly low, where if you had an outbreak, that school was pretty likely to have some significant challenges,” she said. “Then we were able to direct our various limited resources for programming and education in communities that needed more support.”
Now, as analytics manager at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), she’s doing much the same work: Generating and identifying the most meaningful and accurate data to serve members. But the challenge of the job involves more than just plugging in information and spitting out charts.
In some ways, her job is essential to an association’s sense of itself: What does an organization need to know about itself? What information does it need to go there? And how do you get members to share it?
Starting From Scratch
The analytics manager position was created for McKenna in October 2021. “[AAHPM] wanted to get a better understanding of who their members were,” she said.
McKenna began her tenure by convening a staff-led task force to study not just what information AAHPM was gathering but also how it was inputted and what questions might be missing. For instance, AAHPM was looking to know more about members who participated in its scholarship programs.
“We want to be able to track and identify them throughout their engagement with the Academy, and right now that’s not being done in our management system,” she said. “They’re involved in our leadership-development or research-development programs, so they have a lot to offer for the association.”