Feb 19 2015
Data Analytics

Big Data Can Help Shape the Future of Nonprofits

While businesses have been racing to use Big Data, nonprofits are still just getting started.

The use of Big Data has generated an immense amount of enthusiasm and excitement in the enterprise side of business. IT leaders and executives are salivating at the prospect of gaining insights and expertise that was previously impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty.

But the nonprofit sector hasn’t been quite as quick to jump onto the Big Data bandwagon. But we’re starting to hear rumblings of an interest in Big Data from the sector.

Nonprofit Technology News reported the emergence of Posiba, a Big Data and analytics service that specializes in the nonprofit sector. Here’s an example of the kinds of Big Data problems Posiba can solve:

The vast majority of data relating to social programs such as obesity, violence, teen pregnancy and vaccination rates is available on the Internet (big data). The data can be scraped, analyzed with modern techniques (analytics) and used to figure out who’s funding what, where, for whom and to what end. Posiba works by aggregating and fusing public and private data along with crowd intelligence to support the needed insight.

Posiba is also training its system through broad surveillance techniques (literature, Internet-sphere data, etc.) and natural language processing to capture and understand the many interventions taking place in the sector and how those actions are perceived to be working by experts, practitioners and, eventually, recipients.

The power of leveraging Big Data to benefit a nonprofit is huge. It can drive new revenue opportunities, grow membership and uncover potential problems before they become actual problems.

In an article for Medium, writer Elizabeth Svoboda illustrated the value of Big Data in in a recent example from KCET, a California nonprofit public TV station.

When data streams are channeled efficiently, though, the results are often dramatic. California-based KCET, a large nonprofit public TV station, was having trouble attracting repeat donors, so station management asked the Russ Reid data-consulting agency to craft a new outreach strategy. Combing through existing donor data, Russ Reid analysts discovered that the station members most apt to become regular donors were those who’d joined or re-joined recently, confirming their commitment to the station. By directing repeat-donor communications to this group of likely givers, KCET quickly tripled donor response rates — and, most importantly, doubled the number of donors on file making automatic monthly gifts.

For nonprofit organizations that are interested in using Big Data, the best place to start is by measuring and analyzing the membership database. If you’re unsure of where to start, finding a business intelligence partner can put you on the path to Big Data bliss.


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