2020 Series: How Real-Time Access to Data is Transforming Communications

By Kim Lynes

The concept of digital transformation is not new in philanthropy. It is necessary to have a digital strategy to meet stakeholder expectations (and often requirements) around data collection and reporting. What we saw in 2020 was a shift in how we view this data. It is no longer enough to simply track and evaluate one’s data once or twice a year. This year demanded that impact organizations take an active stance to collecting and analyzing data, pivoting as events trigger unexpected areas of need or when data has identified areas of optimization for existing programs. 

 

As we look to next year, this increase in information collection will lead to new opportunities for data personalization. It is more effective to speak to relevant funding priorities and issues than to report on generic areas that may not resonate with all audiences. Dashboards and data visualization tools allow impact organizations to build reports that are relevant to the specific audience they are speaking to, addressing real-time factors. In 2020 we especially saw the impact of incorporating public data into reports from organizations detailing their progress toward goals, how their organizations “moved the needle” locally, or providing reasons behind a shift in funding priorities. 

 

The team at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund provides an example of an organization utilizing data to inform their stakeholders. In response to COVID-19, the Federation is using historic data to help them make personalized grantmaking recommendations to donors, with the ultimate goal of getting more money out of donor advised funds and at work in our communities. More specifically, in March of 2020, the Federation pooled a recoverable grant opportunity to support Hebrew Free Loan, an organization that gives no-interest loans to families suffering financially in light of the outbreak. The Federation was able to use data to identify donors who might be interested in supporting Hebrew Free Loan, and met their goal in a matter of days. Of course the ability to use this data in the moment was made possible by the hard work that the Federation had previously done to centralize and analyze data across the following categories: donor information, gifts into DAFs, and grantmaking activity.

 

Another example of an organization utilizing data to keep stakeholders up to date is the Ravenswood Education Foundation, an organization that was created to ensure that students in the Bay Area’s Ravenswood school district have access to equitable and high quality educational opportunities. With schools closing and unemployment rising, the “normal” challenges that the organization faces have intensified. In response to COVID, the Foundation built an emergency response fund to help students and their families during these difficult times. The Foundation worked hard to analyze fundraising and grantmaking data to understand donor trends and communicate progress updates with donors and stakeholders. The Foundation believes that with consistent and transparent communication, they can bridge the gap between donors and the important work they are doing to support the local community, and incentivize future donations as the pandemic continues. 

 

Both of these impact organizations are using real-time data to inform their decisions, and seeing results in engagement with their target audiences. As tools make it easier to collect, aggregate, and filter data, it is going to become more common practice for organizations to communicate more often with stakeholders. This will be possible due to the ability to personalize the presented data, sharing only what is relevant to the recipient. The result will be increased transparency, stronger relationships, and new opportunities for collaboration.

 

 

Other Posts in the 2020 Series:

Creating a New Path and Learning as We Go

Using Data to Drive Collaboration

The Importance of Context

Committing to DEI Metrics

 

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