Is big data leveling the playing field for charities?

AlizeA guest blog by Alize Cyril.

Most companies and private organisations in the world have made significant advances thanks to technology.

However, according to Lloyd’s Bank UK Digital Business Index 2016, almost half of the charities in the UK lack basic digital skills in promoting their causes. The study pointed out that charities that are tech-savvy attract 30% more funding from the public.

Speaking at Tech4Good last month, Microsoft’s first ever digital skills conference in Scotland, Steven Grier, the Country Manager at Microsoft UK, said that thankfully, big data is now helping charities become digitally experienced and launch better campaigns. Big data is defined as ‘an extremely large set of data that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions’.

“One of the features of technology that I find most exciting for the third sector is how it’s helping to level the playing field,” said Steven Grier. “The power of data, for example, in providing valuable insight about who and where your donors are and when they are likely to donate, is amazingly exciting for charities.”

With the spotlight on cyber security and digital transformation, Tech4Good aimed to teach UK charities how to better utilise technology for their cause through free learning workshops.

What most charities can do now with big data is to use the information to find out what activities interest the public. With this information, fundraising activities can be tweaked to fit market trends and consumer spending habits. For example, if big data says that charity runs are much better fundraisers than bingo, for instance, then charities can test these trends for their supporters in order to yield better results.

There are plenty of charities that use big data. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now using insights from their collected data to make major fundraising changes. According to the Huffington Post, based on the data, the charity decided to cut their street fundraising program, which was historically a large part of their overall strategy.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has cultivated the use of big data into a more refined process and is now being implemented by consumers, businesses and charities across the world. According to Telogis, the IoT is a result of the fact that businesses and consumers need to be connected at all times. The IoT studies human behaviour and interaction through connected devices and the results often help streamline business models to help yield better results. With Microsoft’s commercial products and services, influence, and expertise, experts agree that both local and international charities can soon work together for the betterment of humanity.

If you are not already using big data to implement educated decisions based on quantitative data, here’s our top three tips to get started. Use big data to:

1 – Know where your supporters are from and plan more fundraising activities in those areas.

2 – Track outcomes, which feed directly into your fundraising strategies on an ongoing basis and adapt your activity accordingly.

3 – Take advantage of centralised information. With big data, charities can gather information from their supporters, as well as organisations that are funding similar causes. Charities can collaborate with tech companies, and utilise the data gathered to monitor consumer habits and behaviours. With big data’s help, charities can find new revenue streams as well as penetrate new markets and expand their reach through strategic campaigns focusing on specific demographics. All of these decision will be based on quantitative data.

Alize Cyril is a freelance writer who contributes to several international media outlets. In her free time, she likes spending time in her garden, taking care of her precious orchids.

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