Nonprofits should embrace big data

May 9, 2013

Nonprofits should embrace big data

Many managers at nonprofit associations hear about big data and think to themselves, "How am I going to use these massive data streams to my advantage?" And they are not alone, as businesses throughout the world have struggled to maximize the potential of big data.

"The amount of information and data that we're collecting now is truly enormous in terms of the volume that is outside the four walls of the organization," Anand Rao, principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told CIO magazine. "Organizations don't have the right people, they don't have the right structure in place and they're still struggling with some of the tools and techniques."

Nonprofits must set concrete goals with big data
An article for Nonprofit Quarterly stated nonprofits need to focus on one set of numbers they can take insights from to improve marketing and fundraising. There are many people in the world talking about social change on blogs, websites and sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These are the pieces of information nonprofit organizations should focus on when deploying big data initiatives. Associations struggle when they try to harness too much information, making it difficult to provide any real-time insight to decision-makers.

Bring in the necessary talent
Capitalizing on big data doesn't happen overnight. In fact, it often takes a lost of planning and the necessary talent to ensure big data deployments are a success. The magazine featured the 5th annual Digital IQ Survey produced by PwC that showed learning from big data is often more difficult than originally believed for businesses, and nonprofits often face the same challenges.

While nonprofits may struggle to come across funding, if they want to truly benefit from massive information streams, the associations must bring in people that have a feel for the importance of big data insights into its infrastructure. Budgeting for data experts will help organizations realize the benefits of big data more quickly.

"You need someone who understands the business, can translate the business from a problem into a solution," Rao told CIO. "They have to understand enough about analytics to know that this type of problem requires that type of solution or analytics technique. If you can't find a single person, a team approach could work."

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