The Big Limitations of Big Data

The Big Limitations of Big Data

Arguably, the biggest story of the summer was the revelation of how our government is collecting all manner of data on private citizens. And while this isn’t necessarily surprising, it is still somewhat concerning. But I think a bigger story that is playing out both at the national security level and at nonprofits is the exposure of the limitations of big data. And that is collecting the data is only the first step. Big data without actionable insights is meaningless. Yet we tend to focus on the data infrastructure and not the analysts. Today on NPR I heard that a new NSA data farm near Salt Lake City is opening with over 1 million square feet of server space to capture our every move. But how helpful is this? For example, last week Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Naval Shipyard in DC, left a trail of data points that demonstrated he was a distressed individual in need of help (or at least banned from buying guns). Yet no one connected those data points until after the fact. I see this on the nonprofit side as well, and though the consequences are not as deadly. Still there are lots of missed opportunities. In my 20-years of being in this business I can’t begin to estimate how many times I have heard a client say: “we need a new database.” Not once have I ever heard them say: “we need to spend more time analyzing the data we already have.” Our counsel is before you spend six or seven figures on a new database, make sure you are analyzing the...
How to Move Beyond The Overhead Ratio

How to Move Beyond The Overhead Ratio

As our industry starts to gain some traction on the campaign to end the overhead myth (thanks to Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk and GuideStar’s campaign launched in June), the question still remains “Where do we go from here?” According to Pallotta, donors should be asking nonprofit organizations three questions: What are your big scale dreams – your Apple, Google, Amazon scale dreams? How do you measure progress towards those dreams? What resources do you need in order to make those dreams come true regardless of overhead? In order to find out if nonprofit organizations are ready to move beyond the overhead ratio, Analytical Ones “took to the streets” at the New York DMA conference this summer and interviewed a sampling of development professionals and asked them Pallotta’s three questions. Take a look at a short video compilation by clicking here. What we found was intriguing. Nonprofit professionals were able to articulate the dreams of the organization but putting specifics around the resources needed to make those dreams come true is a bit more challenging. If we want donors to look beyond overhead ratios, then we as development professionals need to guide the internal discussion on how to get there. In order to help you facilitate this discussion with your board members and key stakeholders, Analytical Ones has created a free resource to help you. Click here for more information on the white paper, and how to download a copy for...