The following post is written by Jacob Lail, an intern at Praescient Analytics.
Now more than ever, humans are using data to make more informed decisions in every sector of society. From healthcare advancements to sports team strategy, data analysis is revolutionizing the way we make sense of already existing information. Non-profits have joined this trend and are using data analysis in many ways. Typically, non-profit organizations are slow to adopt new technologies and practices when compared to the private sector due to the limited resources that they have to work with. This notion is being challenged as data now plays an increasingly integral role in many non-profits’ attempts to target donors, implement new projects, and demonstrate the direct impact of their programs.
Data on previous donor history is now leading non-profit organizations to expand their network of “relationship capital” which consists of targeted individuals who are more likely to believe in their mission, and be more inclined to contribute. These donors are in turn requesting more detailed information indicating that their donations were meaningful. Through data analysis, organizations are able to create a relationship between the capital received and the direct impact of their programs. This analysis can establish causation, as opposed to correlation, between the work done by an organization and the positive results produced. This tangible data can also be used to enhance transparency in the financial operations of non-profits. Above all else, data analysis can be leveraged by non-profits just as it is in all other sectors: to improve decision making, cut inefficient spending, assess and control existing programs, and promote the creation of new programs.
We at Praescient had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Lee, Project Manager at SumAll.org, one of the non-profit organizations taking advantage of the power of data analytics. SumAll.org aims to “leverage advanced analytics to support partners and clients as they solve pressing social problems.” Their partners include The Clinton Foundation, the New York City Department of Homeless Services, and Humanitarian Tracker. SumAll.com, a startup data analytics firm based in New York City, invested 10% of their equity to create SumAll.org, establishing a method for tech startups to break into philanthropy. Lee expressed that SumAll.org has access to the tools used by the for-profit company, as well insight from the Board of Directors, a wide network of experienced volunteers, and software license donations from other tech companies, such as Tibco Spotfire. Lee has worked for leading global marketing analytics companies in the past, but felt compelled to use the tools and technology of that industry to make the world a better place.
Lee shared SumAll.org’s impact on two different project partnerships: Predicting Homelessness in NYC which was done with New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, and Analysis of Syria Killing in collaboration with Humanitarian Tracker. While working on Predicting Homelessness in NYC, SumAll.org identified families that were at high risk to become homeless after eviction by analyzing historical eviction and shelter check in data. Not only were they able to identify these ‘ high risk families for social workers, but SumAll.org created new outreach materials, such as a Facebook ads or informational letters, that aimed to encourage those in need to use the services of homeless shelters.
Often times, privacy questions arise when such non-profit work is involved. Lee said that each of SumAll.org’s projects, go through a masking process that creates unique codes to identify particular cases and protect every individual’s privacy throughout the process. SumAll.org is not the only organization doing this type of work to make the world a better place. Lee told us that similarly minded non-profits believe in open source practices to eliminate the “competition” aspect, because the ultimate goal of each organization is to positively impact society. As these non-profit data analysis organizations continue to grow, more members of our society will receive the help that they need.
Featured photo by Eric Fischer via Flicker, Base map © OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA