Building an Evidence-Based Case for Big Data
One need not look very hard to find evidence of the value of big data in the for-profit sector. This being said, building a case for big data analytics investment is much more challenging in the nonprofit space, where clear big data victories are not yet widespread and our small teams are strapped and wary of investing resources in anything but the lowest-hanging fruit: major gift fundraising.
With a leap of faith as well as a strong belief in the value of big data, over the past two years, the University of Michigan Analytics Team has transformed into Data Science & Decision Support. This is not merely a rebranding but instead reflects a break from our traditional focus on major gift analytics. In particular, we intentionally reallocated attention away from major gift prospecting and toward big data initiatives that benefit historically neglected teams including events, annual giving, and marketing.
The purpose of this presentation is to explain the rationale behind this decision and to share our early evidence that the investment will ultimately benefit the entire pyramid—including the major giving pool. We'll explain what we mean by "big data" and "decision support" and how we made such structural changes despite a budget frozen by the pandemic. We'll also highlight case studies across events, annual giving, and marketing that have benefitted from our shift in focus. These anecdotes will include quantitative impact metrics that can be shared with leadership and perhaps help to build a case for greater analytics investment in the future.