Data Mining for a Nonprofit Gold Rush

It’s time to go on a nonprofit excursion. While it does involve mining, there’s no need to get out the headlamps, picks and gold pans. But if you execute this type of mining correctly, there’s room for a different type of gold. I’m talking about data mining—a way of sifting through information to utilize it for the good of your nonprofit. And if you utilize it the right way, you could end up striking nonprofit gold. So don’t just sit there, let the sifting begin.

Data, Huh?

Data mining is a process of analyzing information that you’re collecting, including information like demographics, likenesses of site visitors or any other helpful information. Mining hasn’t been popular for nonprofits, but that could be changing in the near future. Thus far, big companies have used the methods to predict trends and find out similarities and information about their customers. But the practice is becoming more widely accepted by more than just the bigwigs. It’s becoming more affordable than when it first came out, and accessible to some nonprofits.

In the World of Corporate

Businesses have had the first hack at mining data for their benefit. So take a lesson from places like Amazon Marketplace who have successfully mastered the technique. With access to customer receipts, Amazon Marketplace uses data mining to find suggestions that you might like to buy based on previous purchases. Even if they strike out every now and then, they still generate more revenue when they’re on target.

Mining for a Cause

If you have a large amount of volunteers or donors, you won’t be able to necessarily know all of them on a personal level. But with data mining, you can get inside their heads to find out what they’re thinking. If you can do that, you’re as good as gold for gaining future donations and volunteers.

Find a purpose for analyzing the data. Maybe you’ll use it to find trends to better enhance volunteer and donor retention. Or, maybe you’ll use data mining to predict how the people associated with your nonprofit will react to future changes. Perhaps one of the most rewarding uses of data mining to a nonprofit is the benefits of finding prospects for direct mail marketing. By doing that, you’ll be able to target those most likely to donate or volunteer to help you achieve your mission. Do this with event attendees, website visitors or your regular donors and volunteers.

Doing it the Right Way

So how will you use it? Going into the process with a plan has more room for success than simply guessing. Imagine the success rate of miners who looked for gold without doing their research. Although they might have struck gold occasionally, it’s the experienced miners that get the most rewards. That’s because they did the research and know where to find the best results. To find more success, plan your mining. There are tons of different reasons to data mine, so sit down to determine the reason behind your endeavors.

Remember that it takes the right type of person to be able to evaluate the data after you’ve done the mining. It may involve hiring somebody new or using an existing volunteer or staff member who has knowledge in statistical analyzation, data management and business decision making. There are also a number of companies who offer data mining software.

Who Can Use It

Everybody should be able to reap the benefits of data mining, but some services can be costly. Money can be tight for everyone, but especially at a nonprofit when funds go directly toward helping achieve the mission. It may not be feasible to pay for data mining services, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits to some extent.

You won’t be able to get as in-depth of an analysis of information, but you can still gather and analyze data from your volunteers and donors manually. Asking them to fill out voluntary surveys with information about their demographics and other interests can help you with recruiting in the future. Put together graphs to easily show what age, gender and interests drove your volunteers and donors to your organization.

How have you used data mining to help your nonprofit achieve its mission?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

August 16, 2012

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