The September, 2012 Issue of the NTEN Change Journal is pure crack for nonprofit #datanerds (folks who would definitely wear a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Love Data!” in the office). But if you read the articles in this issue, you will come to conclusion that loving (and using data) for strategic decision-making is becoming a must-have skill and competency for nonprofit success. Does your nonprofit have those skills?
There are many different ways to collect, analyze, visualize, and make sense of data and you’ll discover in the September Issue. Two themes come together in an article by the Chronicle’s Peter Panepento about the “How America Gives” online tool: Public Data and Data Visualization. This tool allows users to dig into detailed geographic data about how much money Americans give to charity.
Panepento’s article explains the data that lies beneath the tool and some of the ways that a team of journalists and developers have sliced and diced and mapped the data. Tools like this and others in development – are somewhat new addition to the fundraiser’s tool box and a new form of strategy – “Data-Driven Fundraising.” Now certainly development professionals have a history of using research – think donor research for big endowment campaigns. Also think about the data and analysis that a development professional would perform on the donor data base to analyze multi-channel fundraising campaigns. Tools that mash up public data allow nonprofit fundraisers to do benchmarking and a better analysis of market conditions.
Peter also mentions in the article that the Chronicle is working on the next online tool in partnership with Blackbaud, PayPal, and Network for Good to create a new index of online giving that will debut later in September. The tool will pool the data from these three sources and do analysis of online giving habits in the US, practically in real time. Well, a few weeks after it is collected as opposed to after form 990s have been release after year or so. This data, if analyzed, might reveal some predictive trends.
I can not resist playing with online data mapping tools, so I gave America Gives a spin. Just for giggles, I compared my current town here in California to where I used to live in the Boston area for percentage of total income donated to see which one was more generous, but no town or zip level data for my former place of residence. I could compare it at the county level. What I really wanted to do was export map image, but I could screen capture it or dump the data into a spreadsheet and create a graph or use chartwell fonts. (And to do all this without too much “yak shaving”)
I couldn’t help but think about the skills sets and competencies nonprofits will be need in the future. Like the field the evolving field of “data journalism” will there be a new breed of fundraisers? A data analyst on the fundraising team or a data analyst position on staff like at DoSomething? Maybe for larger organizations, but for smaller nonprofits there will be more professional development opportunities for nonprofit fundraisers will include data analysis skills and tips for getting started.
Is your organization making use of public data for organizational strategy decisions? Do you have a data analyst on staff or have staff been trained in these skills? Maybe this idea is new or maybe you’ve been hearing about it, but not sure how or where to begin? The first step is go download and read the new issue of the NTEN Journal.