From Information to Impact

Nonprofits have a lot of information. The trick is making that information useful.

When it comes to information on donors, my Penn colleague Pete Fader at the Wharton School, found that many nonprofits’ donor datasets can be far more useful than many for-profits’ customer datasets. In his recent post, Learning from Nonprofits – Being Data-Driven,  he writes,

Let’s face it: non-profits are the ugly stepchildren of the corporate world. They get scraps of advice and hand-me-down help from MBA do-gooders . . .

Yet what Pete has found in working with a number of nonprofits and for-profits as part of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI), which he co-directs with Eric Bradlow, is that nonprofit donor datasets can rival the customer datasets of many for-profit corporations in “size, cleanliness, and usefulness”.

Their ability to pull records from these databases, combine them together to draw deeper insights and take specific actions based on these historical records is on par with (if not better than) many for-profit companies that are (or should be) just as data-driven.

For those interested in improving fundraising effectiveness, you can learn more at WCAI’s upcoming webinar: Data-Driven Donor Management taking place this Friday, May 20th.

In the end, though, the most important customers of any nonprofit are its clients—the people the nonprofit is dedicated to serve.

Understanding donors without understanding clients is like a for-profit understanding its shareholders without really knowing its customers.

So the question is, are there datasets on nonprofit outputs and outcomes that are as rich and granular as the typical dataset on inputs such as donors?

Because that’s when you can really start talking about turning information into impact.