Big Data And Fundraising
Roger has written two post lately (here and here) noting the role that donor/consumer data and predictive modeling will play, and must play, in new donor acquisition … including for small nonprofits and charities.
If you haven’t read those two posts yet, please do. They’re rather important to your fundraising future.
If you need more incentive to step up your database-building and analytics efforts, read this Time Swampland account — Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win — of the Obama campaign’s elaborate and unprecedented use of ‘big data’ and predictive modeling to drive every aspect of the campaign’s fundraising, voter persuasion and voter turnout efforts.
As campaign manager Jim Messina promised: “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign.” They did. And they adroitly used every bit of that information.
It used to be that nonprofits, because they lasted years, even decades, had an advantage over political campaigns when it came to building institutional memory and accumulating re-usable data. Whatever ‘memory’ existed from campaigns survived imperfectly in the heads of a handful of pollsters and consultants, who traded handsomely from campaign to campaign off the ‘black boxes’ they carried in their brains.
Theoretically, at least, hard data about confirmed supporters was better retained by nonprofits, who had more durability and plenty of incentive to protect and carry forward their learnings.
But many nonprofits have squandered that opportunity to mine their accumulated data (if they collected and preserved it at all). To be fair, the tools for collecting and analyzing donor data — and to use it effectively — have become incomparably better and more affordable in recent years, as Roger’s posts point out.
However, now along comes the Obama campaign #2, which built upon numerous databases built in campaign #1, added very sophisticated consumer data overlays and analytics, and finished with a political asset of enormous power … and economic value. Certainly an asset that will see further future use. Perhaps in support of Administration lobbying efforts.
I wonder who owns it?! Who will inherit it?
Wouldn’t various sectors of the nonprofit community love to have an asset like this?
The power of political ‘big data’ does raise some new issues of transparency, ethics and accountability. Some of these are discussed well in this recent opinion piece in the NY Times — Beware the Smart Campaign.
In any event, nonprofits need to prepare for the ascendancy of the nerds!
Time to re-assess your organization’s commitment to donor data.