3 big data trends nonprofits should take advantage of this year

By Josh Mait

The Brief
Plenty has been written about the applications of big data to the nonprofit and social impact sphere. From administrative and fundraising strategy to the missions themselves, data has demonstrated the potential to reshape the way we do nonprofit work forever. And nonprofits are becoming savvier in the way they collect and analyze their data. So, what can we expect from big data in 2015, and how can nonprofits take advantage of these trends?


1. Easier access. 

Data analytics have become increasingly streamlined and simplified, allowing businesses to train in-house users rather than engage with consultants. This is great news for nonprofits, where the barrier to data mining has often been the cost associated with hiring a data scientist or an outside firm to do the analytics. Use this year to price out low-cost, user-friendly (or friendlier) platforms that you can incorporate into your existing workflow.

2. Real-time availability. 

Industry experts are pointing to instant analysis as the next breakthrough for big data. It’s not widely available yet, but corporations are calling for it more and more to help with processes like supply chain management. As the technology develops and becomes more mainstream, expect to engage with your fundraising data, population mappings, etc., much more quickly and easily.

3. Cross-sector partnership. 

A recent article in US News & World Report highlights the tremendous impact big data can have in combating social evils—and how partnering with for-profit businesses can help nonprofits further their missions. In this case, the philanthropic branch of Palantir Technologies created a platform to help locate and provide resources for human trafficking victims who called into the crisis hotline at the nonprofit Polaris Project, while also helping the organization unravel behavioral patterns of offenders. Similarly, SumAll.org, part of analysis firm SumAll, has worked with nonprofits to discover and track potential war crimes in Syria. The takeaway here: Whatever you do, don’t write off big data just because your nonprofit lacks the resources to execute analysis on its own.

This article originally appeared on the GuideStar Blog and has been republished with permission.

Josh Mait is the Chief Marketing Officer of Relationship Science (RelSci). RelSci helps create competitive advantage for leading non-profit, corporate and financial organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. 

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