How big data can help nonprofits raise more money

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about “big data” and how using the plethora of information we now have at our fingertips will help fuel efficiencies and make businesses and causes more successful. But how can data transform a nonprofit’s ability to fundraise more effectively? I recently caught up with Josh Mait, CMO at Relationship Science (RelSci), who offered some intel on how they’re connecting organizations with big data for big results.

Relationship Science offers a “relationship capital platform.” Josh explains, “We help organizations, both for profit and nonprofit figure out how to leverage their ‘relationship capital’ to high-impact donors Basically, how does a nonprofit organization identify and act on all of the 1st and 2nd degree relationships they have access to accomplish what they’re trying to do.”

Josh says that while as individuals we’ve become good networkers, especially thanks to the proliferation of new communication tools like social media, organizations still struggle to make the right connections.

In the nonprofit sector, organizations often face three key challenges that data can help solve:

1) Optimizing the board. 

2) Identifying high-impact donors. 

3) Reducing the length of fundraising cycles. 



By using data about individuals and their relationships, you can keep track of how these relationships may connect you to your next major donor or high-impact board member. For nonprofits wondering how to use their donors, board members, or corporate sponsors more effectively, being armed with the right information can help. The ability to talk to a board member about who they might have a relationship with can be very powerful if used properly. If you’re able to approach someone with a common experience or interest, this gives your request added credibility and social power.

“Relationship capital can help fundraisers identify people who might be good prospective donors,” explains Josh. “By looking at the full picture of your networks, your board’s relationships, your existing donor’s relationships and other people close to the organization,  you can immediately see new opportunities for growing a donor base. With limited resources, you can focus on potential donors who can be high impact. You can focus on those who are more likely prospects and approach them with a warm introduction.”

Relationship Science offers nonprofits a platform that has profiles on over 3 million decision makers throughout various organizations, including public, private and financial companies.The service builds deep dossiers based on publicly available information on these key decision-makers.

“There aren’t salacious or personal details—and no contact information. We simply provide a really easy to digest format for intelligence and insights,” Josh says. “Because we collect all of this information and put it into a usable interface, that encourages action. If I pull up a profile, I can find out if my organization and the individual have anything in common. “

In many cases, the availability and usability of this type of intel can be critical for small organizations, as they are less likely to have someone on staff dedicated to manually compiling and managing this information. The smart use of contact and donor data can create efficiencies and helps organizations make choices. Understanding where to allocate your limited resources might be the difference between meeting your fundraising goals and falling short.

So, will “big data” save us? Not so fast.

Josh says it’s not about the data alone, “If we aren’t smart about our clients’ workflows, if we aren’t smart about the way we interact with the data, then the conversation is meaningless. If people can’t act on data in a meaningful way, we are right where we started.”

Thanks to Josh for sharing his insights. To find out more about how Relationship Science helps causes connect with key contacts, check out this case study on how Interfaith Youth Core to mobilized its national donor and support network.