Philanthropy is an Unstructured World

According to IBM 90% of all data has been created within the last two years, and 80% of it is unstructured: documents, videos, images, e-mails, etc. No wonder Big Data is a Big Topic of conversation these days. This all sounds amazing, but to me it feels like technology is just catching up to reality. Most of the world’s data has always been unstructured: thoughts and memories in people’s minds; carvings on stone; or printed on a piece of paper. The concept of structured data came along when databases appeared and data was required to fit neatly within distinct fields. Numbers, dates, names, and addresses were welcomed. Notes, comments, and documents were exiled to live either outside of the database or in unsearchable (and often seemingly unreachable) places within it. Every time you log-on to your favorite donor management system you experience the consequences of this “Unstructured Data NOT Welcomed” legacy. You search for a person’s name, and if that person is...
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For Fundraisers It Is Best Not to Mix Love, Intentions and Money

Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Marts & Lundy introducing the fundraising world to automated prospect screening. Their Electronic Screening® service, programmed by my old friend Charles Headley, changed forever how organizations found their best prospects. The goal was simple: find people in your database who have the capacity to give more than they are now, and the propensity to make a gift. You would think the reaction to this was universally positive. After all, the classic peer review sessions were breaking down under the weight of the volume of people, and the growing diversity of wealth. But it turned out the first thing people wanted to see was their current top prospects. If they were not at the top then it must not work. This is a challenge screening companies have faced ever since. Grenzebach Glier came along and solved the problem by heavily weighting past giving as the measure of affinity. Voila! Your current best donors were your future best...
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The Excitement and Anxiety of What Big Data Could Mean to You

I was thinking of ways to describe the challenges of Big Data adoption, and I remembered an incredible video of a woman hearing her voice for the first time. Her reaction was an overwhelming mixture of joy and fear. When you fully embrace Big Data you will experience the joy of seeing all your data, and the fear of what it might mean. For years we have dreamed of being able to bust through the silos and bring together all of the databases and documents into one place. More recently we have even dared to imagine bringing in all of the external data including the treasure trove of social media. Now this is actually possible, so what's holding us back? The easy answer is cost, but as companies roll-out more and more applications at lower and lower prices we will need a new excuse to hide the real reasons. Here are a few: What if the data reflects badly on me or my...
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An Opportunity to Stop Doing (at least for an Hour) & Start Teaching About Prospect Research

Several months ago, Alyce Lee Stansbury (professor and fundraising consultant) asked me to be a guest lecturer for her FSU graduate level course called Fundraising and Fund Development, Askew School of Public Administration, to discuss prospect research. I've spoken to her class on this topic in previous years, and I was very much looking forward to another engaging conversation. Last night as I began, I, as I usually do, informed the class they should feel free to interrupt me with questions, especially if something I said did not quite make complete sense to them. This course tends to have a variety of students – some current practitioners within the nonprofit world, others just interested in the topic of the course, as it's an elective, so most students were likely rushing into class at the end of a long workday. Within the first couple of minutes, there was a question about the field of prospect research, "Is this a growing field?" and followed...
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So Much for the 90/10 Fundraising Rule – Time to Think in Tenths

The 90/10 fundraising rule of thumb has been broken (more like shattered) by my good friend Peter Wylie who provides some incredible data and insights on the CoolData blog. I was fortunate enough to receive an early look at the data, so I have had some time to ponder the implications. There is a wealth of data to explore, but here is the chart that really caught my eye:   This means that 1/10th of 1% of alumni donors to this school account for 60% of all giving (the top 1% represented nearly 96%). And Peter only looked at alums who gave. If he had factored in non-donor alums then the number would be even more dramatic if that is even possible. Before I continue I want to tip my hat to the amazing donors who are willing to underwrite such a large percentage of an institution's needs. I also want to say "well done!" to the fundraisers who worked with these philanthropists,...
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Time for Vendors (and Fundraisers) to Be Big About Big Data

In January The Atlas of Giving provided fundraisers with an in-depth look at 2012 giving, and a forecast of what to expect this year. In February Blackbaud came out with their view of 2012 and 2013. For a sector that for years had to rely on Giving USA, who will not report their numbers until June, it is great to see two companies working to give us more real-time insights. Full disclosure, I am on the Board of Advisors of The Atlas of Giving. Even further disclosure, a company I founded - Prospect Information Network (P!N), is now part of Blackbaud. I also work and compete with Blackbaud, and have many friends there. I have no direct connections to Giving USA, but as a long-time social data geek I have used their data for many years. So fundraisers are pouring over this wealth of data right? They are excited to see they can now have not only more timely yearly reports, but also...
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Behind the Scores – The Untold Story of Data

APRA members — Register for the Upcoming Online Solutions Showcase Webinar May 8: Behind the Scores – The Untold Story of Data Level: Intermediate Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm EST, 12:00pm – 1:00 pm CST, 11:00am – 12:00pm MST, 10:00am – 11:00am PST Speakers: David M. Lawson, Partner, TrueGivers, LLC, and Melissa Kwilosz, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Reporting and Analytics, Arizona State University Foundation Track: Prospect Identification This webinar will take you behind the scores where you will discover invaluable intelligence about your prospect's capacity, affinity, and philanthropic propensity.  David Lawson, a Partner with TrueGivers, LLC, will show you  how to identify and qualify prospects using over 200 data elements including home equity, household economic stability, discretionary income, buying behavior, lifestyle, personal interests, and philanthropic activities.  Melissa Kwilosz, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Reporting and Analytics at the Arizona State University Foundation will discuss how she has used the data to not only find prospects missed by traditional wealth screening, but also to better match the interests of their constituents with ASU's programs and projects. ...
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Decluttering Your Mission

Along with most of the modern world, I, too, took it upon myself to create a New Year's Resolution for 2012. OK - so I am also somewhat of an overachiever, so I actually have two. First, decluttering my house, in bite size chunks, became one of my missions for 2012. So much so I found a calendar with daily (except for Sundays) decluttering projects to guide me, encourage me, and hold me accountable. [Note: I found the calendar via Pinterest.] My first HUGE project (I did say bite size, but...) was weeding the pantry. First step was to assess what exactly was in the pantry - best way to do this? Remove all items from said pantry. This was the scene in my kitchen: Decluttering Pantry Project   It only made sense to throw away expired items in the process of removing all items from the pantry. So, this had me thinking about how stale research (and/or prospects) can become when such...
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Desperately Seeking Mathematicians

It warmed my heart (and it was extremely cold here this a.m., in FLORIDA, so I needed that warmth) to hear a piece on NPR regarding math degrees and BIG DATA. Reportedly, mathematicians can make sense of this data for businesses. No doubt this is true, and “intense curiosity to understand what’s behind the data is a common trait amongst such mathematicians.” I would argue people with BIG LOVE of research (like us – that is, a love of prospect research and data mining) all have this trait as well, with or without math degrees. How many nonprofits and higher ed foundations look for (and hire) mathematicians? Perhaps you should share this NPR story with your HR department, to adjust the requirements for certain development positions. Hey, I’m not suggesting you stop hiring those of us with library science, information studies, history, and/or English degrees. Read on and see why math majors should be included, too. McKinsey released their results of...
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