Corner Office: Big Data and Analytics for Nonprofits
Not surprisingly, one of the rationales for resistance to the use of Big Data is the concern over privacy. And nonprofits are especially sensitive to the perception that they will use private donor information in invasive or manipulative ways. While these concerns are understandable, the truth is that targeted marketing to consumers by use of the very information they offer can work to the distinct advantage of those consumers. Without data-driven targeting, consumers wade through random advertising that offers them little benefit for their valuable time.
Of course, the more complex the data, the more essential it is that it be defined and distilled with a clear view to your fundraising goals. The data may be a container, but it needs to be one that is shaped like the donor. Part of the function of analytics is stripping away the extraneous and concentrating on just the elements that keep your organization focused on your donors and the mission they care about.
How can we increase the usefulness of the data available to us?
In the increasingly challenging acquisition arena, it's crucial that we maximize data to refine Web attribution. Giving via the Web has grown dramatically, especially in the past three years. However, most online growth is not new growth, but likely channel migration from non-Web channels to the Web. You need to know how much and how that should drive decisions on allocating your next investments. So, if your radiothon or direct mail campaign lifts online giving, it would be a grievous and expensive mistake to credit the Web for raising the money and cut future radio and mail budgets in favor of digital — when, in this example, these offline vehicles are what drove the online contributions in the first place.
Tom Harrison is the former chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He served as chair of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.