What Can Data Do For The Sector?

As many of you who know me can attest to, over the last several years, I have gotten quite excited and passionate about the use of data and technology for doing good.

Alex and I have had the chance to lay out for some of you a vision we have of collecting, analyzing and using data for improving and expanding philanthropy in the Balkans.  This vision is beginning to be realized through the initial steps of the Catalyst initiative (about which we will dedicate many future posts).

So we created a new blog category ‘Importance of Data’, which we will use to place posts focused on how we can better utilize data in doing our daily work of social good…from the ways we fundraise and engage with others who hold the same causes dear, to the strategies and methodologies we use in the implementation of our work, the way we understand and interact with our beneficiaries, and how we view the impact of the efforts we have made.

This recognition of the availability of data and the importance of making better use of it has been an emerging theme in the global non-profit and philanthropic community over the last few years, as I am sure you have noticed in the regional and global conferences you have been attending.  This year’s Global Philanthropy Forum had a session on Unlocking Data for Philanthropy, which covered a wide range of topics within the subject of data. 

But have you been one of those who has sat in the break-out sessions on using data, and thought ‘if only philanthropy was more developed in the Balkans so that we could begin to use some of these new techniques’?  I’ve found myself having the same thoughts.

I would assert, however, that maximizing the use of the data that we so have available to us can be the very catalyst to propelling the sector forward and expanding philanthropic practice because we have a more sophisticated understanding of what is actually happening in the sector, the motivations for why people and companies give, and what type of change philanthropists are hoping to achieve with their giving.

The underpinnings of this assertion can be found in some of the links I share in this and future posts in this category.  I invite you to explore and engage and see if you, too, can catch the data bug.

An initiative called Markets For Good invites you to join their conversation aimed at improving the system for generating, sharing, and acting upon data and information in the social sector.

Their video, laying out their vision, gets me so excited as it lays out the what ifs of improved infrastrcuture for doing social good. 

But where do we start?  What data do we have available to us?  What what can that data actually tell us?

Check out what the data lovers over at the Million Dollar List have started to do – compiling a list of million dollar gifts made by individuals, corporations and foundations from publicly available data.  While we certainly don’t have enough million dollar gifts in the Balkans to form a list around, using publicly available data, the Catalyst initiative is starting to track all gifts made.  Press clipping and web crawling activities have started as of 1 May…to date we have found more than 760 records of philanthropic activity in the 7 countries we are focussed on. In 6-9 months, I believe the corpus of data will be large enough and our data analysis capabilities big enough that we can make available to the philanthropic community a public and searchable interface for understanding this data.

And this is just the beginning…



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Nathan Koeshall