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Data for Development: How nonprofits can use big data to access new donor networks


Big data analytics has solved thousands of problems for individuals and organizations around the world–from improving bus transportation in Dublin to helping you pick out what to watch on Netflix. So it’s no surprise that even nonprofits, despite typically being slow to adopt new technologies, have begun to embrace the value of data-driven fundraising.

The big data revolution has resulted in the creation of a zettabyte (that’s a one followed by 24 zeros) of new data in the past two years. But that has presented its own messy challenge: how to sort it all out—the junk from the useful, the interesting from the important. Nonprofits committed to strategies that efficiently employ the right data will lead the next generation of philanthropic fundraising.

At Relationship Science, we believe that a group’s “relationship capital”–the contacts and connections that organizations can leverage in their development efforts–is the key to unlocking big data’s nonprofit potential. For nonprofits, relationship capital is what gets their foot in the doors of more potential donors and what initiates warm connections that convert leads into givers.

The right data and algorithms can create real-world maps of a nonprofit’s relationship capital by drawing paths to and among high-net-worth individuals. And, thanks to all the public data available, we can create robust profiles of those individuals, including valuable information like previous donations, personal interests, education and work history.

Here’s just one example of what we’re talking about: the Interfaith Youth Core, a mid-size nonprofit based in New York, replaced a time-consuming, manual relationship-mapping process with RelSci, which gave the organization easy paths to 100 top influencers in their network. The data allowed IFYC to convert cold calls to warm ones, and helped it get in front of more prospects. The end result was a fuller national donor network.

Without a doubt, understanding how to navigate big data to supplement traditional fundraising tactics can be the difference between meeting fundraising goals and falling short.

The preceding is a guest post by Josh Mait, Chief Marketing OfficerJosh Mait atRelationship Science LLC (RelSci). He is responsible for guiding the overall marketing strategy and its application across all communication channels for the 2013 launch of the ‘ultimate business development tool. Prior to RelSci, Josh was Head of Marketing at Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) where he was responsible for organizational brand strategy, sales enablement, visual and verbal identify and online and offline campaigns and communications. He led the $250 million dollar technology company through the successful rollout of a new brand strategy and architecture to over 750 employees, launched three brands and was a critical contributor to the product design and brand development of GLG’s new online platform. Previously, Josh held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at Tattoo Brand Strategy. At Tattoo, Josh ran new business efforts and strategy development for all client relationships for brands like Cadbury, Starbucks, CNN and Chanel. Before joining Tattoo, Josh was Director of Marketing at Sullivan in New York. His responsibilities included managing client relationships and developing marketing and sales strategies for Fortune 1,000 clients. Josh has spent his career understanding and developing the consumer and client relationship. His passion is in building creatively–inspired, strategically–driven, successful businesses and brands that connect to what people want. Josh is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He lives with his wife Kira and their two children in Brooklyn.

Topics: Big Data Fundraising