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Technology has given nonprofit organizations the ability to leverage data to engage donors in a way that wasn’t possible 10 years ago. One buzz word that has really taken off in the past few years is “big data.” But what exactly is “big data” and why have so many nonprofits struggled to leverage it in the same way our for-profit counterparts have? Those are the questions we wanted to dive into today…

 A Real World Example of the Power of “Big Data”

The real-world impact of “big data” went viral a few years ago when The New York Times released an article explaining how Target knew that a 16-year-old girl was pregnant long before her own father did. The big-box store studied consumer purchase patterns and knew that certain purchases—like zinc and iron in large quantities, or cocoa butter lotions—signal that a child is on the way.

Target’s level of confidence in this model was so high that it sent a mailer to the young lady offering pregnancy-related products, which infuriated her father. He complained loudly to a Target store manager but later apologized after discovering that his baby girl was, in fact, carrying a baby.

That’s the power of big data—and nonprofits need to use it to reach more donors and help more people.

The “Big Problem” Nonprofits have with “Big Data”

But there’s a problem. Most organizations already have a lot of data, but they store it in departmental silos.

There’s an abundance of data coming from many sources, including the customer relationship management (CRM) system, donor relationship management system, email interactions, website usage patterns, product purchases, public information, and ticket sales, as this infographic illustrates:

big data fundraising

Instead of synthesizing the data from all sources, nonprofits look at one area at a time. But that approach doesn’t unleash the power of big data. Information gleaned from donor data files, special events, emails opened or closed, and what donors click on at your website must be looked at holistically. But doing that requires breaking out of departmental silos. Diffused data isn’t good for the donor, your mission, or your organization’s long-term sustainability.

How to Eliminate Silos and Improve Your Fundraising Strategy with Big Data

Target used big data to help grow its business from $44 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010. By contrast, total giving to the nonprofit sector has stalled at 2 percent of the GDP since 1971. The nonprofit world should learn from Target’s example by harnessing the power of big data and taking measures to crush the silos that stymie growth.

Are you issuing an RFP to find a partner to help take your fundraising program to the next level? We’d love to be considered! As an agency built by fundraisers for fundraisers, Pursuant has helped hundreds of organizations raise billions of dollars through our direct response, direct mail, digital, and analytics services. Reach out to a member of our team here or email us at info@pursuant.wpengine.com.