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Big Data Starts with Strong Relationships


In the past few years, nonprofits have begun to wade into the ever-deepening ocean that is big data—an ocean from which corporations and governments have been pumping for a while now. In some respects, NPOs have been fast learners. These days, many are wise enough in the ways that data can help track fundraising dollars. When it comes to gathering, let alone leveraging, information for strategic purposes, though, too many otherwise capable organizations aren’t really sure where to start.

The sheer quantity and mixed quality of information available at both the organizational and sector level can send waves of anxiety cascading over anyone who can’t boast of a degree in deep analytics. Corporations can afford to hire such specialists to command their data operations. Nonprofits, of course, are hindered by tight budgets, so they are stuck trying to make the best of incomplete data scattered over various incompatible platforms, even as they are otherwise engaged with more pressing goals—you know, like their missions.

Platforms like and Fluxx can assist with such analysis, but only if nonprofits have the information— complete and accurate information—to analyze. And if that sounds like I’m just stating the obvious, according to a recent survey, nearly half of NPOs reported corralling "missing or inaccurate data" as their biggest challenge. This sobering statistic may have something to do with the fact that consumer (and therefore donor) trust in data security has been buffeted about of late. And that lack of trust translates to a lack of data generosity.

So, the first order of business is to bolster the trust of potential donors and clients. That could mean preemptive outreach in the form of shared data protocols. NPOs need to spell out clearly and concisely exactly what any gathered data will be used for (now and in the future), whether donor anonymity can be guaranteed and how sensitive information will be protected. Most important, as with any initiative for which buy-in needs to be cultivated, staff members, clients and donors must all be made to understand why data collection and analysis is critical to the mission.

Think of it as relationship building, and recognize that relationship building isn’t just the purview of the fundraising staff anymore. By focusing on it, nonprofits can clear a passage through the obstacles that hinder data collection so they can forge ahead to the more important job of furthering their agenda.


Josh Mait

The preceding is a guest post by Josh Mait, Chief Marketing Officer at Relationship 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