Last week, I had the pleasure of delivering a session on Big Data and Analytics along with colleagues from The Foundation Center and Melissa Thompson, communications manager and consultant for The Patterson Foundation. Our mission? Share the magnitude and implications of data and analytics with our philanthropy communications colleagues and provide a glimpse of how they can use this in their work.
Taking cues from organizations mastering (and creating!) the data revolution — including Amazon and Google — we highlighted the cover story of the most recent edition of Harvard Business Review about getting control of Big Data. It references how data and analytics rocketed to the top of the corporate agenda, changing how companies do business.
We think the same applies to philanthropy. By exploiting data, powerful strategies emerge. These vast new streams of information are changing the art of management and decision making.
Other takeaways from the presentation:
- Communications and technology are now inseparable. What are the implications for foundation staff members?
- Data does not replace insight and vision but adds substance to decision making, especially in communications.
- High tech and “High touch” (face to face) is extremely powerful. This online/offline dynamic can and will help communications take flight.
- We shared this crowded map from Scott Brinker who calls himself the chief marketing technologist for ION Interactive (they are a company specializing in landing pages). Every logo on the visual represents a different data set, which demonstrates the vast landscape of software that will help drive decisions.
- Just as in business, Big Data is a transformative disruption forcing philanthropy to adapt.
How is philanthropy finding its own data and analytics sweet spot?
- Funders and investors are better informed and educated when faced with decision making.
- Data can build bridges across foundation departments: Communications, Program, Knowledge/Evaluation.
- Data, when considered from the onset of projects and programs, can help us create new ways of sharing social change and progress.
- In context, data can illustrate a story that shows the power of investments made in social good and can help with public perception of what foundations do with their resources.
- It engages grantees in real time, helping funders design programs that are most meaningful to both parties.
- Data enables us to go beyond white papers. We now have the ability to use interactive programs to share information making results more appealing and easier to consume.
What good is data if it can’t help us drive our decisions? This isn’t easy. But, those up to the task are interested in doing the most “good”.