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What to Do When Pressured to Get & Use Big Data?

nancy big data

Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it,” reports Marketoonist Tom Fishburne.

Remember when your leadership and board members were scared stiff about social media, especially fundraising-wise? And when, in many organizations, that was followed by intense pressure to get on social media pronto to achieve perhaps-impossible goals, WITHOUT additional resources?

Based on what I hear from many of you, we’re in the same boat with big data right now.

Data does have huge potential for enabling the kind of right-things, right-now fundraising and marketing needed to motivate the actions you need from supporters. Affordable and widely-available technologies—with database, fundraising, email, marketing automation and other functions—now produce tons of data. But the data alone won’t get you anywhere.


Take these three steps to get data working for fundraising and marketing impact:

1) Catalog the useful data you already have:

  • Assess what constituent information—preferences, habits, relationships and interactions—is accessible now, and where each component lives across all departments and databases in your organization
  • Select ten to 15 data points max that have the greatest potential to fix gaps or weaknesses in your current marketing such as motivating first-time donors to give a second gift.

2) Set up systems, roles, and responsibilities to harvest, share, and analyze these data points

  • Implement a robust database tool that enables you to connect all data on a single supporter or participant (now fragmented in multiple departments and records) in a single, in-depth profile. That the key to the rich insights (a true 360-degree perspective) necessary for truly integrated marketing and fundraising that reflects your supporters’ interactions with your organization over time, and is delivered consistently—across channels and campaigns—for a more relevant, resonant experience.
  • Log, share, and analyze what you learn about your people across your organization—instead of limiting analysis to actions within a single program, campaign or channel—in a way that’s easy to access for all.

The more coordinated and robust your insight is into each person you’re hoping to engage, the greater the probability you’ll motivate him or her to take the next action (or realize that he/she’s not a likely prospect).

3) Make the changes—in content, format, and/or channel—as indicated

Then rinse and repeat to provide the kind of relevant and connected experience most likely to motivate supporters to take the action you need.


Nancy Schwartz Nancy Schwartz

The preceding is a guest post by Nancy Schwartz, Speaker-Author-Strategist of Nancy helps nonprofits like yours succeed through effective marketing. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at

Topics: Big Data