What Can Data Do for Philanthropy?
The September 2012 issue of Alliance magazine covered the various ways in which data and philanthropy intersect. There was a great deal of good thinking and we have digested these articles for broader consumption which we present here in the first of two parts. TechSoup Global's Tiffany Pintor helped prepare these summaries. Note that a subscription to Alliance is required for access all but the first link below.
Data for good by Larry McGill. Summary: There are payoffs to be had from using data for philanthropy. Data can support advocacy and be used for market intelligence, monitoring and learning. There is a need to look at who is collecting data on philanthropy and why they are doing so. If foundations are to participate fully in the data revolution, they need to move beyond working within systems built only for their needs. A global philanthropy data charter is one possible way to help achieve this.
Moving the tanker by Caroline Fiennes and Jeff Mosenkis. Summary: According to the authors, when philanthropic resources are used wisely, larger organizations and governments want to be philanthropic as well because of such success. Money can act like tugboats for larger organizations such as governments and companies. It does this by identifying what works. This is exemplified by research into education in Ghana that tested what programs did and did not work. Because of success with this project the Ghanaian government is now committed to testing policies and evaluating what their impact can be before implementing them. Other countries where policymakers seem to be open to the findings of rigorous research include Kenya, Zambia, Mexico and even Liberia, a country still recovering from conflict.
Putting family foundations on the map by Cathy Pharaoh and Charles Keidan. Summary: The collaboration between Pears Foundation and the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) on Family Foundation Giving Trends presents annual data on major family foundation giving in the UK, US and Europe. The data revealed that the largest 100 family foundations in the UK are responsible for between 7 and 10 per cent of all charitable giving. This shows that family foundations are a distinct field of philanthropy in Europe. This has created a platform for philanthropists, and encouraged networking and sharing of experience among donors. Beyond this, the research has shown that this identified gap in the sector’s knowledge has lead to an appreciation for understanding more about the sector as a whole.
Encouraging sustainable land investments by Alejandro Litovsky. Summary: An increase in farmland and commodities investments has led to widespread concern about ‘land-grabbing’ and the accelerated loss of biodiversity, water depletion, soil erosion, and human rights abuses. In March 2012, a report by the Earth Security Initiative (ESI) explored how to create new economic and political incentives for sustainable land investments which is the heart of a nexus of risks derived from competing food, energy and water demands in different countries. In order for people to consider those risks, data is needed, and so ESI is developing a Land Security Index. The index will provide an independent analysis of country data on five trends that are not usually analysed together: water limits, land degradation, food security, governance and climate change. The ultimate aim is to demonstrate why considering such sustainability metrics is in the interest of both financial markets and governments.
The narrative of impact: it’s not just the numbers by Kelly Notcutt and Tamzin Ractliffe. Summary: While there are many measurements and reporting tools such as GIIRS (Global Impact Investing Rating System) and SROI (Social Return on Investment), the sheer diversity of organizations’ missions and impact makes recording comparable data near impossible. For example it is difficult to compare environmental versus social impact. An organization does not necessarily have more impact because it can more easily collect data. Also relative location, access or even urgency should be considered in making social business decisions. Standardized, sanitized reporting is necessary. Data and narrative (which includes stories from those that are helped) is vital in determining the true impact investment.
Visualizing philanthropy: storytelling with data by Cole Nussbaumer. Summary: Data is a great way to tell compelling stories and make an argument stronger, yet today’s advanced communication technologies make handling of that data challenging. Foundations will need to become data-literate. When used well, data can add credibility where we lack it, impart new knowledge, persuade people to support your vision, demonstrate impact, or help convince someone to take action. But it is not enough simply to show data, as we also need to tell a story with data. Some advice on how this can be accomplished is also provided.
A conversation between Rosa Gallego and Bradford Smith Summary: The conversation spoke about the way that the state of data on philanthropy in Europe is quite uneven. While foundations do collect data individually, many do not think that this can be done collaboratively. They also believe that data collection is too expensive and time-consuming. The European Union commissioned a study that shows that the assets of European foundations are equal to or greater than the assets of American foundations, and that the amount they spend is roughly equivalent. Both Americans and Europeans are amazed by this and underestimate the strength of the sector. People are overwhelmed by data and think their data isn’t good or comprehensive enough, but even simple data has a big impact. Foundations often think of themselves as unique and of the business sector as very organized, but that isn’t true.