by Rebecca Lunn
In recent years, there has been a buzz around the term “big data.” As SAS describes, “big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.” With the influx of technology and increasingly complex ways to collect and analyze data, understanding big data is becoming essential to business.
We see examples of big data every day, such as personalized coupons at the checkout counter or ad placement on social media. However, it is much easier to visualize how a financial or retail business can use big data, as compared to a nonprofit. Nonprofits may not have the same volume of data as corporations, but these organizations can still take advantage of the big impact of big data.
Marketing: With the introduction of new technology, the marketing strategy of organizations has transformed. By collecting data about website visits, email subscribers and social media likes, nonprofits can analyze their audience. Using this data, the organization can tailor posts to include topics which interest their audience, leading to increased sharing of information and awareness of the organization’s mission.
Development: In addition to marketing uses, social media can also be used to encourage donations. With the increased sharing of information mentioned above, comes the possibility of increased support. Similar to email subscribers, organizations should maintain a database of donor demographics. This information can be used to make an appeal for funds on a more personal level. In addition, the organization can send individual donors information about events or fundraisers that might specifically interest them, rather than a mass mailing with higher costs.
Programs: The primary focus of most nonprofits is their programs, which have a direct impact on the community. On a periodic basis, organizations should collect data related to program growth and clients served. This can assist the organization in allocating sometimes scarce resources, such as funds and employees, for maximum impact.
Rebecca (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an audit senior in our firm. She works closely with the audit staff in the areas of healthcare and nonprofits.