The Leaders’ View is not 360

“360 Degree View” long ago made its way onto the BS Bingo board at conferences. Vendors and consultants promised a complete picture of your relationships regardless of whether your interactions were on-line or off-line. Millions of dollars, and countless hours, have been spent making the 360 view a reality. For fundraisers this meant bringing together all of the elements of a successful campaign. For other departmental silos it delivered the view they needed to get their job done. Leaders began to receive more complete data from their direct reports, and for a while it seemed as if 360 had helped organizations do a 180 in terms of having the data needed to make better decisions. But there was a problem – in fact many problems. First, the 360 view was essentially a new way to look at all the structured data found in a traditional database of record (known as a donor management system for fundraisers). 80% of data today is unstructured and...
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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 Philanthropy the Answers Are All Around Us

One of my favorite lessons about faith is the story of a man caught in a flood praying to be saved as the water rises. Two boats, and a helicopter, come and are sent off as he trusts that his prayers will be answered. When he eventually drowns and goes to heaven he asks - why did you not answer my prayers? The simple answer, "I sent two boats, and a helicopter." I am reminded of this story when I hear about what fundraisers, and others involved in philanthropy, say is needed to be successful. There never seems to be enough information, technology, personnel, and good donors. Imagine telling this tale at the pearly gates. I'm not sure a sympathetic audience awaits. Do you really want to make the case for information being in short supply? Is the technology available not amazing enough for you? Good people seem hard to find, but how many good people have left your organization in frustration? And with...
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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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A Big Social World in the Cloud

I am off to the first of seven conferences, and one bootcamp, where I will be speaking between now and early August. Lori will be joining me for three of the events which makes the whole experience a lot more fun. As I look at the topics a couple of things are clear: Big data is lumbering its way into philanthropy; and social media is moving into the mainstream of fundraising. Even subjects like private company research are now incomplete without acknowledging the value Big Data and social media bring to the table. The noise of social media and the thumps of Big Data coming to life can drown out a topic that seems so yesterday - Cloud Computing. This is where all data will converge. This is where data becomes Big. This is what connects the internal and external social worlds. Not surprising to see Salesforce out in front of this with their moves into social analytics. Yesterday Blackbaud announced its...
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Donor Retention – All You Need Is Love

At some point during the 9 WOW Institutes I was a part of my great friend and colleague Jay Goulart would say, “It’s all about the love.” A lot happened during those 4 day-experiences in beautiful Henniker, New Hampshire, but when all was said and done it really did come down to love; loving your donors; loving your mission; loving what you do; and equally important is for you and your team to love being at your organization. If you nailed the love, then you had the opportunity to create a culture of philanthropy that turns donors into lovers of your mission. But how do you measure love? Is it money? Time? Those certainly can be indicators of commitment, but people can, and do, give of their time and treasure without so much as a smile on their faces. Rather than love, fundraisers can use guilt, peer-pressure, or a sense of obligation. Do any of those warm your heart? There are a number...
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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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