Data is defined as “facts and statistics collected together for reference and analysis.” For those of us who live in the world of nonprofit fundraising and donor engagement, it’s easy to think of data as a new phenomenon taking our industry by storm.
However, data has been bringing sweeping change to life as we know it for quite some time. Before I introduce my new whitepaper, let’s take a stroll down gigabyte memory lane and revisit some of the world’s most famous forms of data.
Einstein, what a guy. He really knew his way around a chalkboard, and he knew a little bit about physics, too. His famous E=mc^2 equation allowed us to connect the mass of an object with its energy for the first time, which ushered in a new era of physics and even played a major role in the atomic bomb. It’s a great lesson in the power of data: It can propel you forward if used correctly, but destroy you if mismanaged.
2. Data of The Goonies
The Goonies is a timeless film that had a profound impact on children of the 80s. The character “Data” bursts into the movie via a house-to-house zip line, something I would often try to recreate throughout my childhood. He also had a series of gadgets that he hid beneath his trench coat, leaving you to wonder what would spring out of him next. Data not only represents one of my favorite characters in cinema history, but he also personifies data in that we have to remember that—no matter how much we THINK we know—there may be something beneath the surface we’re not seeing or interpreting correctly.
3. Pi aka 3.14 etc.
Everyone knows this symbol from painful high school math exams, but what you may not know is that pi is over 4,000 years old! Over that time, several mathematicians have advanced pi, rather than just accepting how it has always been. From the ancient Babylonians and Archimedes of Syracuse, to Zu Chongzhi and Georges Buffon, pi has been reworked to better serve the interests of the people of each time period. Pi presents a fine lesson in how even the most accepted practices occasionally need a reboot.
4. Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation
Sometimes we want data to be more than what it is, or we try to use it where it doesn’t fit or belong. Such is often the case for Star Trek’s Data, an android who occasionally yearns for human emotions. Data’s experiments with human emotion usually distract from the job he was created to do. Even though we, as the audience, find ourselves wanting Data to be human, we have to respect what he was designed for and stop trying to apply a square peg to a round hole. This is the double-edged sword that is Data… and data.
5. The Quadratic Formula
…Another image that’s sure to trigger terrifying flashbacks for the anti-math people. Despite its ability to take us back to a dark place, the quadratic formula has deep roots similar to pi, like when the crafty Babylonians applied quadratic equations to their agricultural strategies. One-thousand years later, the Greeks took it up a notch, and the evolution continued from there.
Thanks to this formula, we can predict things like: where a thrown ball will land, how long it will take to travel a certain distance, and how to predict the production costs of items you’re selling in a store. Like most data, the use cases for the quadratic formula are vast—which is great, but also creates a temptation to rely on data for everything. Data can provide us with many insights, but we can never lose sight of the human side of things. There will always be a place for a face-to-face conversation, a handshake, or even a warm hug.
Enough History… On to Science
So what’s the meaning of all this? Why take you down a nostalgic road of data history and fictional pop culture characters? One, because data is becoming an increasingly vital part of nonprofit fundraising, and two, because I have reached out to some of our industry’s biggest data science stars to help me compose a new whitepaper: “It’s Poetry In Motion: The Art of Fundraising with Data Science.” Download your free copy here.
This paper shows how organizations in the nonprofit space are using data science to transform their fundraising, while also remaining sensitive to the culture shift these new strategies can create. With data comes great power, but as Spiderman’s uncle always said, with that power comes great responsibility. Within the pages of this paper you’ll find best practices and sage advice about how to master the art of data science.
Table of Contents
Data Science: What Are We Really Talking About Here?
Advice From Experts: How to Implement Data Science
The Advantages of a Data-Driven Culture
The Art of Predictive Content
The Science of Donor Modeling
Even the Best Data Isn’t a Silver Bullet
So What’s Next?