Big Data in Philanthropy
April 9, 2014 by Blandin Foundation
“It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.”
– Andrew Carnegie
In a December 2013 Wall Street Journal article, philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz offers big data as an to answer Carnegie’s implied question: how can we be intentional, and intelligent, when awarding grants?
But what is big data and how can it be used?
Berholz, along with Paul Tarini of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Larry McGill of the Foundation Center, tackled these questions during a Council on Foundations (COF) webinar last week. As part of their Leading Forward: Innovations in Philanthropy webinar series, COF offered “The Practices and Opportunities of Big Data in Philanthropy (watch here) to organizations eager to harness the power of data.
A few takeaways:
- Don’t use data for data’s sake. Put your goals first, then decide if data is an appropriate tool.
- Data sharing is different than lesson sharing. Data may be part of lessons, but it is “magical thinking” to assume that simply making data available will catalyze change. Data needs context such as the purpose for gathering it, and insight from those the data was gathered from.
- Find out what your organization’s data footprint looks like. It can tell you where your organization shows up in the world and who’s looking at you.
- Data is not democratic; some voices are not being heard.
- Digital data is forever. People are concerned with how they are perceived based on their data trail. We need to address issues of privacy and security when collecting data.
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