Big Data is not a tool. It’s an approach to managing data and a part of corporate Business Intelligence (BI) that cannot be handled by traditional analytical tools. And though there is much confusion - and hype - about big data, it is a remarkably straightforward concept: store everything for later analysis.
With constant pressure to raise more money and operate efficiently, non-profits face critical data management challenges that include:
- We have so much data and we’re not doing enough with it.
- We don’t want to store this data because we don’t need it right now.
- If we store all of our data, we’re going to create bigger problems because we won’t be able to analyze it using traditional analytical tools.
- Our data is scattered all over the place.
- We need more robust information about our existing donors.
- How can we update our donors on our results?
- Where will we find the best new donor prospects?
A BI solution can tackle all of this. Prospecting engines can collect, warehouse and transform disparate data sets into common formats and create a steady stream of new information about donors and prospects, replacing guesswork and manual research with high-quality, easy-to-access intelligence.
But the fact is, non-profits don’t generally have the IT resources required to implement a true BI solution. While there is always urgency to capture and analyze data, many non-profits are still stuck with legacy tools and understaffed IT departments, which creates a major disconnect between fundraising goals and operational reality. And planning for an ultimate BI solution can also prove costly. Often reports that are thought to be valuable (and thought to be automated) are done by hand behind the scenes and are extremely expensive.
BI solutions used to be too complex and too costly to implement, however, with the introduction of cloud based BI solutions, even small non-profits can take advantage of this type of cutting edge technology.
Data collection and analysis provide solid intelligence building blocks, but often have limited scope. Individual donors contain a finite data set with limited value. But when surveyed as part of a larger data set, the aggregated results add value on multiple fronts:
1. Important information is added to each donor’s record, increasing the value of each record and paving the way to 360 degree profiling.
2. When aggregated with other donor datasets, previously undetectable patterns or trends create new, actionable information that can be turned into opportunities.
3. Donors appreciate communications that ask about their interests, and convey a sense of community building and information sharing.
4. Higher quality data can now be used to start building a longer-term BI solution.
Look at what you have and really find out if you’re making the most of your data. BI is only one of many approaches to leveraging data, and should never be the conversation starter.
Start with the business problem you’re trying to solve and let that conversation drive your technology conversation.
The preceding is a guest post by Dmitry Cherches, Chief Technology Officer, at Mind Over Machines. Dmitry is a multifaceted, senior technology executive specializing in the development of high-transaction databases and e-commerce applications, high-availability servers and storage solutions, and multi-lingual Web applications. Under Dmitry’s direction, Mind Over Machines has increased its depth of expertise and certifications in the ever-evolving world of web programming languages, tools and technology platforms, further securing our reputation as a preeminent provider of technology solutions in the Mid-Atlantic region.