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The data-driven way to build support

Speak to the right people, at the right time, the right way


When nonprofits have ample and accurate information about their natural constituents – and communicate with that information in mind – important relationships can take root, flourish, and soon bear fruit.

Datum Research provides the data and data management services that small to medium-sized nonprofits need to grow fundraising capacity successfully.

We work in partnership with major nonprofit data sources – including WealthEngine, iWave, and Foundation Center, to name a few – to build lists, thumbnails, in-depth profiles and digital data tables that include information from all our partners, as well as from our own extensive database on major donors in the Tri-State New York area.

We make "big data" research and analytical tools economical for organizations that otherwise couldn't afford to employ researchers and analysts. These tools help focus research on the prospects most likely to be responsive. Many of the tasks involved in building a community of supporters and can be programmed. That's an area where we excel. Say your organization is advocating for wildlife protection in New York City's parks. It won't be easy to find an existing list of prospects interested in that cause, but a program capable of comparing contributions to aligned organizations can build such a list economically.

Ultimately, fundraising is about personal relationships. Good data fuels the development of relationshiops. When nonprofits have ample and accurate information about their natural constituents – and communicate with that information in mind – important relationships can take root, flourish, and soon bear fruit.

Our services include:


  • Lists:  Filtered for affinity, capability, generosity
  • Circles of influence:  How one set of acquaintanceships intersects with others
  • Profiles:  Complete, in-depth background on an individual
  • Messaging:  Geared to connect with a well defined psychological profile
  • Data Management:  Tools for managing the data that constitutes a prospect pipeline
  • Data visualization:  How to present statistics on programmatic results
  • Legal research:  Background information tailored for law firms, corporate research projects

Details on services are offered below. To get in touch with us, use the contact form at the bottom of this page.


The art and science of the list

The chief determinant of a list's value is the quality
of the logic that went into filtering the original data

Lists of likely prospects are the foundation that development professionals build on. Nonprofits face varied challenges in assembling lists. Where there are institutional bonds with a natural constituency – colleges have alumni, hospitals have former patients – the complexity of the fundraising challenge is much reduced. But most nonprofits don't have that advantage. They need to build from the ground up, working hard to identify natural constituents. Datum Research helps nonprofits find the prospects most likely to be supportive and reach out with a tone, emphasis and perspective that is likely to resonate.


Example of work

Today's analytical tools enable researchers to combine address and location data with financial and political information in a manner that is scaled and customized with very specific goals in mind.



Several of us are skilled programmers who can employ digital tools. We have built our own extensive database, focused on the 300,000 Tri-State residents responsible for nearly all the philanthropy in the area. Our data is enriched by the deep experience and seasoned perspective of Barbara Bantivoglio, who has managed data-driven fundraising programs for some of the Tri-State area's most important nonprofit institutions, including the Whitney Museum, WNYC public radio, and WNET public television. We combine our data seamlessly with information derived from the nation's most comprehensive philanthropic databases.

We are happy to undertake research assignments related to the augmentation of house lists. Normally, such projects are focused on affinity, as a primary criteria. For example, an organization trying to raise money for social services in New York City ought to be aware of parallel fundraising efforts and the constituencies that are offering support. We can help. Our partners at iWave, WealthEngine, Foundation Center, Relationship Science and other information services are happy to support us in providing sophisticated list-building services to nonprofits that do not have the resources to sustain a full-fledged research department in-house.

What you know is very important.
Whom you know is a game changer.

Wise use of the intersections in circles of influence
can help institutions grow much more efficiently

Experienced fundraisers know that, ultimately, success is about building relationships. The development of a relationship to the point where a prospect is ready to step up with meaningful support can require the investment of a great deal of time and effort. That's why existing relationships are so very valuable, warranting systematic and energetic cultivation. At times, it pays to take inventory of the existing relationships involving particularly affluent or influential individuals and to then reprioritize cultivation efforts to ensure full utilization of valuable links.

Example of work

Thorough exploration of existing circles of influence can help institutions target development efforts where an investment will bring the highest return.



We help clients understand the value of existing relationships by taking inventory in a comprehensive, data-driven way. As in other areas, we utilize computing power wherever possible. We facilitate analysis of circles of influence with computer programming that "scrapes" information about important relationships from the web. We complement that with information from Relationship Science and from advanced web searches. The end product is a set of lists that allows a client to understand more fully who is acquainted with whom and how "connector" personalities compare in terms of networking leverage.


When we need to know an entire life story

Detailed knowledge a prospect's background and giving history
will help shape a cultivation effort for maximum efficiency

Full profiles are useful in instances where a development professional has the opportunity to engage with a major gift prospect in a personal way. In that situation, the profile will make conversation much easier and much more productive. The organization's vision for positive change is the motivating force, in most cases; but frequently the immediate catalyst for a contribution is an element of personal experience that relates to the vision.

The videos linked below are illustrative. Why did Conrad Prebys finance the construction of the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute in La Jolla? As Prebys explains here, it was partly because he had suffered from a heart ailment as a child, and carried with him a vivid memory of the pain and isolation he endured. The construction of the Cardiovascular Institute fulfilled his deep desire to spare others that same pain.

Conrad Prebys
The Jacobs family
Cindy Skjodt

These videos are made available at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where we have benefited from enlightened instruction by some of the leading figures in our industry. The university uses them to help students understand the motivations of donors. Mere knowledge of an individual's background is of little consequence, in and of itself. However, in the hands of a professional skilled at developing relationships and building community commitment, such information can be extremely useful.

We furnish abbreviated "basic" profiles for use in situations where clients need to prepare for social events and meetings, or quickly estimate the potential in a relationship that looks promising. These brief documents contain vital information about an individual's career and history of charitable giving.


Special messages to special people

The message customized to speak to a prospect's background
has a far greater likelihood of success than any mass appeal

Research done at Indiana University tells us that, where individuals are the mainstay, about 80% of the funds raised by nonprofits will come from about 20% of the donors. Where the goals of an affluent donor are perfectly aligned with an organization's goals, remarkable things can happen. That's why it pays to take extra care with a message of outreach to a special person. This is true of foundations as well. By carefully researching giving histories, careers, criteria for giving, and personal interests, then crafting a message that emphasizes commonality of purpose in a forthright way, we can radically increase our chances of capturing the attention of a busy person and getting off on the right foot.


Effective fundraising communications reflect the interests and philanthropic goals of donor prospects.

Little things can mean a lot. Say investigation of your board's sphere of influence has turned up a connection between a board member and an ideal prospect. You ask the board member to reach out, but he is hesitant, not quite sure how to phrase the overture. In that situation, it may be wise to have a message prepared, suitable for use in an email. Where a brief email is met with a favorable reception, it may be wise to prepare a longer message, encapsulating elements of your organization's case for support in language that relates to the prospect's life experience. Many board members are not highly skilled at crafting written communications. We prepare communications that reflect the interests and philanthropic goals of donor prospects in a natural, friendly, unassuming, and respectful way.

Data management tools and systems

The right data strategy can be a powerful driver of growth

Development and efficient use of digital data need not be expensive or complex. Data systems can make a difference. But it's the intent that matters most. Where organizations are determined to maintain a process-oriented, data-driven approach, they make good progress, no matter how the data is handled. It takes a good prospect list, a rigorous moves management system, a schedule, real accountability, and disciplined insistence that we will measure what we are doing and learn from the results.

That sort of approach can work off a sophisticated database or off a well organized set of spreadsheets. It's all about the process, not the tools.


Excel


There are good options that cost virtually nothing. Just for starters, consider the data storage capacity and remarkable flexibility of a basic spreadsheet. A simple Excel spreadsheet can hold hundreds of thousands of lines of data, more than any small to medium-sized nonprofit will ever need. Spreadsheets are programmable. In other words, they can make calculations, do rankings, and aggregate information. With a little basic programming, spreadsheets can provide an efficient system for tracking the development of donor relationships and prioritizing future contacts with prospects.

Cloud storage services like Google Docs allow us to store a spreadsheet on the web in a manner that allows multiple users to access the document. With this approach, we know the data is safe. Behind the scenes, the data is stored in a Google database. If a user makes an error, we can "roll back" the change and recover in a few minutes.

We are always happy to help others develop data skills. Intrepid explorers should begin with a book that focuses on Excel and build from there. Gordon Linoff's popular book on data analysis will help readers who have some basic skills and want to develop further.

Software vendors are entitled to boast about the remarkable capabilities of their systems in regard to predictive modeling. You will hear nothing but applause from us. Predictive modeling works. But you don't need a massive software installation to take advantage. By utilizing Exel's ability to rank prospects, we can generate a very useful RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) model that predicts future donations quite accurately, allowing us to focus effort where it will bring the highest return on investment.


Access


The next step up is Microsoft Access, a desktop-oriented database frequently used in tandem with Excel. Many small to mid-sized businesses and nonprofits store their data in Access, but work with it in Excel. The combination of the two tools gives us much more flexibility to meet special challenges.

To illustrate, let's say we observe a spike in giving associated with a particular event. We have a spreadsheet that tells us who attended the event, but we need to know more. How does giving from these attendees compare to giving associated with other events? Is the event itself the key? Or does the event just happen to attract prolific givers? Access allows us to generate answers to questions like these in the form of new data tables easily loaded into Excel. The new tables are generated by "queries" written in the database language called SQL. This is a flexible, powerful approach that can be implemented at very low cost.


Donor Management Systems

Donor management systems provide another step up. A good system functions as a kind of control panel for an underlying database. The control panel encourages and facilitates efficient use of data. The database itself is a separate entity.

Choosing a donor management system – or deciding on an upgrade – can be a daunting challenge, as there are dozens of worthy competitors out there. The goal should be to match your organization's special needs with the special strengths of a particular system. We can help explore and evaluate systems with that match in mind.

Frequently, it pays to start with impartial surveys, like the one produced by Idealware every two or three years. The Idealware web site (at idealware.org) is a good source of information about the digital aspects of nonprofit management generally.







One drawback in regard to the use of donor management systems is loss of flexibility. The systems lock users into practices and procedures that don't cover a lot of the challenges that crop up in nonprofit fundraising. On the plus side, most systems provide a window into the underlying database, accessible via SQL queries. In other words, they allow users to ask questions of the database in a flexible way, outside the normal processes and procedures. Where organizations lack the technical expertise to fully exploit this aspect of an existing system, we can assist. This approach is risk free. It can be accomplished with tools that are "read only." The underlying database is not altered in any way.


Python is a programming language that can do the work of, say, 1,000 really good secretaries. It can be helpful when we have to reorganize data or comb through a lot of data repeatedly. Al Sweigart's fun book on the subject -- Automate the Boring Stuff -- has been published to the web here.

Python

A lot of nonprofits have found the Python programming language to be extremely useful in connection with data-oriented housekeeping chores and reorganization of data. Python is a relatively simple, intuitive language that allows non-nerds to write programs that can draw data both from databases and from desktop spreadsheets, then analyze the data, rearrange it, and write it to any storage medium without a lot of fuss.

It can read spreadsheets and analyze the data as though the data were contained in a fully developed database. It can extablish correlations -- counting, totaling, averaging and comparing data items -- in ways that lie beyond database technology. It can groom, check and verify large data stores in minutes, where the same tasks might consume weeks of human effort.

A lot of the work researchers do is repetitive in nature. We need to read, calculate and compare myriad data items for many projects. Not infrequently, Python can take on a big part of that workload.

This is not the sort of tool set a novice can learn in a few days, but that's where we come in. If you can explain your data-housekeeping problem to us, we can get Python to help, with challenges ranging from the reformatting of addresses to the bottom-up rebuilding of databases.



Data as evidence of a program's efficacy

Interactive visualizations can make statistics
much more accessible and more persuasive

Today's major funders want evidence that the programs they are funding are producing the hoped-for results. They expect the evidence to be presented in a form that is accessible and easily understood. Say a nonprofit is running an after-school program. Every year, the organization compiles statistics on graduation rates. The statistics show that the graduation rate for children who participate in the program is greater than for the community at large. Each year brings a new set of statistics, requiring that the nonprofit produce new summaries, new graphics, and a new web presentation.

We can help by wiring spreadsheet information into dynamic visual displays. Just update the spreadsheet with the new statistics, upload the information to the internet, and the dynamic graphic will redraw itself. Below is a simple example of a dynamic chart. Try changing some of the names and numbers in our little table and then hit "Redraw."


Example #1: New data, old chart


Redraw
Label:
Value:
Label:
Value:
Label:
Value:
Label:
Value:
Label:
Value:
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Visualizations can be particularly helpful with large volumes of data. The visualization below shows us unemployment rates for every county in the United States, over a span of ten years bracketing the Great Recession. There are about 200,000 separate bits of data available for display in this interface. Users are invited to click on buttons representing years, on the map controls, to pan and zoom, and on particular counties shown on the map, where they wish to examine detailed data relevant to that county.

The display makes a mountain of data easily accessible, down to the finest details, and makes the overall import clear: The disruption of the U.S. economy in 2008 was cataclysmic, and the recovery from that disruption painfully slow. Words alone cannot convey the same story quite so efficiently.


Example #2: Data density


Unemployment by County, 2004-2013
Use the compass control to move or scale the map. Mouse over the map to see stats on individual counties. To lock in county data, click on a county. To unlock data, click on the checkbox at upper left. Choose years with the gray buttons next to years at bottom right.
LockYearCounty and state U. rateTotal labor forceEmployedUnemployed
0X0Total labor force00
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With the interactive approach, the user never sees more than a bite-sized portion of the data, and the whole package of becomes much more accessible.


Example #3: Exploring data


Where programs or problems are complex, simple charts may not suffice to extract the full value of a dataset. Sometimes we need to do some comparisons, some sorting, and a little basic math in the background. That was the case when we looked at the federal data on home health care providers, a dataset that is available as .csv files from the Medicare data site.

The home health care files offer plenty of information about individual health care providers, but scatter the critical datapoints in a manner that defies easy interpretation. The interface shown below allows the user to enter search criteria and narrow the focus, both geographically and with relation to the type of service needed. Beneath the interface, we have code that compiles ratings on agencies in the desired area, then adds up the ratings and averages them, finally offering an overall rating.

Example of work

This image is not interactive. Click here for the live, interactive version.


Legal research

We help law firms and corporate legal departments
fill out detailed business profiles on important people

Well researched, up-to-date background on important individuals can be vital to the development of key business relationships, negotiations, and legal arguments. Profiles prepared for legal clients include information on criminal records, marriages and divorces, lawsuits, bankruptcies, public information on stock transactions, career histories, and any other personal background available in public records, as well as detailed contact information.

Datum Research does not deal with credit-related information or evaluate credit-worthiness.



Leadership

Where people are naturally inclined to cooperate
in pursuit of idealistic goals, we are happy to assist

Datum Research took shape out of assignments undertaken to assist Barbara Bantivoglio Advisory (BBA), a consulting firm that concentrates on major gift strategies and the communications support required by major gift programs. Once we had developed the ability to generate data efficiently, in support of BBA clients and projects, it seemed natural to make the same services available to others.

Barbara Bantivoglio, who got us started, is a partner in Datum. Her perspective gives Datum projects a deeply personal and intuitive touch. She has met many of the top donors in the Tri-State New York area and discussed their priorities with them.

Partners are listed below, with descriptions of roles.

Art Lenehan

Art

Art began his study of digital data and statistics while supervising the publication of the Star-Ledger Eagleton poll in New Jersey in the 1990s. He managed the initial publication of the newspaper on the web. He developed both research and data-oriented technical skills as a product development manager in the realm of online financial news and information. From 2006 until 2009, he worked at Microsoft, developing interactive information products for MSN Money, then one of the most popular financial news sites in the nation. He moved on to become director of product development at TheStreet.com, a financial markets information site.

In the course of transitioning into data-management projects with Barbara Bantivoglio Advisory, he became an active member of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement and earned a certificate in Fundraising Management from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, the nation's leading university program in philanthropy.

He is a two-time winner of the Loeb Award for financial news on the internet, our nation's highest award in that niche, and winner of multiple awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He was recognized as one of the top business writers in the country by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Regis High School, both in Manhattan.

Barbara Bantivoglio

Barbara

Barbara has more than 25 years experience planning and executing large scale fundraising projects, primarily for Tri-State New York nonprofits in social services, the arts, healthcare, and education. Earlier in her career, she was vice president for institutional advancement at WNET, New York's public television station, supervising a department of some 125 employees. In that role, she increased revenues substantially and significantly reduced cost per dollar raised by streamlining department processes and creating a more efficient prospect management system.

She was vice president for development for WNYC – New York's public radio network. There, she was responsible for raising 75 percent of the station’s annual revenue. She led a capital campaign that exceeded its ambitious goal, securing the largest gift to a public radio station on record.

Previously, she oversaw fundraising, marketing, sales (including all merchandising) and communications for the Whitney Museum of American Art. During her tenure there, a survey conducted by the Association of Art Museum Directors ranked the Whitney first among museums, nationally, for earned income/special events, fourth for corporate memberships, and sixth for individual/family contributions.

Our mission: Provide timely and reliable
data and expert assistance in managing it

Efficiency in fundraising requires good data, put to good use

Datum Research is different from many other research agencies in that our skill set is heavily oriented toward programming and data analytics. We know how to write instructions that tell computers how to comb through mountains of data and find what our clients are looking for. Powerful filtering and screening strategies put us in a position to employ sophisticated personal judgments – deriving from decades of experience with high-level donors – where it will make the most difference.

It can be helpful to think of the fundamental challenge as a needle-in-the-haystack problem. It may be reasonable to assume that there are at least two or three needles – or prospective donors – in a very large haystack of information. Those two or three prospects are uniquely valuable to us, as they particularly well attuned to the cause at hand. To find them, we can either a) claw through the haystack ourselves or b) get a computer (or even better, a team of computers) to look carefully at every single item in the haystack, examining tens of thousands of items per second and making appropriate comparisons. The second approach is not only much more efficient, but allows nonprofits to consider research and development strategies that would not be possible otherwise.


Datum Research focuses on developing and managing data and information useful to fundraisers in and around the Tri-State New York area, drawing information from external sources, from our own extensive database, and from the databases of our clients

Our focus on Tri-State New York

New York is the wealth capital of the United States and home to some of the nation's preeminent nonprofits. Over decades of engagement, we have built up a deep fund of knowledge about giving patterns in the city. In recent years, we have developed our own extensive database of information about New York-based donors, a database that now includes hundreds of thousands of entries.

As government and corporate support for nonprofit activity has declined, weighed down by budgetary pressures and shifting priorities, philanthropic giving by individuals and family foundations has continued to grow, in part filling the gap. Philanthropy in the U.S. now exceeds $410 billion a year, constituting about two per cent of the Gross National Product. Foundations and corporations play an important role; but individuals and families are by far the largest source of philanthropic giving, accounting for about 80% of all philanthropy, by conservative measures.


Many in the fundraising community would argue that the role of individuals is even greater than the chart above suggests. Let's take into account that, of the 15% of total philanthropy credited to foundations, about half comes from family foundations, where individuals play very important roles. Bequests, too, are driven by individual decisions. Bearing these factors in mind, it's reasonable to conclude that individuals and families exert decisive influence over 88% of the philanthropy in the U.S.

Much of the philanthropic funding goes to religious and educational institutions. The great strength of those two sectors is accountable to the strong community bonds that surround them. Many colleges and universities benefit from alumni loyalties cemented fifty years ago. Religious institutions benefit from cultural traditions that have endured for centuries. As fundraisers, we need to understand the existing motivational factors and work synergistically with them, if we are to achieve the desired result.


Where data meets personality

In the end, it's all about building individual relationships. To build relationships, we need to understand each other. To truly understand, we need to move out of our own comfort zones and try to see things as the other person sees them. Thorough research and efficient management of data are critical components of that process. Clearly, it's easier to build good relationships when we understand the backgrounds, interests, and goals of the people we are reaching out to.


We fully endorse and strictly adhere to the Donor Bill of Rights published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals

The development of accurate information is helpful to fundraisers and donors alike. Fundraisers are not the only protagonists in the world of philanthropy. Donors have goals as well. When the goals and priorities of donors are well understood, fundraisers are better able to help those donors achieve their aims. The more the partners know about each other, the more they can help each other.

Our work is based on respect for all participants. In particular, we respect the generosity of donors and their selfless goals. Responsible handling of information about donors is critical to the success of any fundraising effort. In everything we do, we adhere strictly to the Donor Bill of Rights published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Data analytics

At times, proper processing and analysis of information can be more important than the input. Nonprofit organizations need to know where conversations stand. They need to know which outreach programs are working and which are failing, which events are influencing prospects to give, and which combinations of outreach efforts are producing the best results. Frequently, the answers to these questions lie deep in databases of our clients. We can help get the useful information out of the database.

Don't take our word for it. For a good primer on the use of data in nonprofit work, check out Steve MacLaughlin's astute book on the subject. It's bit Blackbaud-centric, revolving around the ideas of Chuck Longfield, the chief scientist at Blackbaud, but still a good introduction to data-driven methodologies. Longfield is a well-respected leader in the fundraising industry. He majored in math at Harvard, earned his master's there, and built a successful software company around data-oriented development.

We try to employ best practices in predictive analytics in a pragmatic way. Predictive analytics is the science of forecasting results based on past outcomes involving similar circumstances and individuals. How does Netflix predict which movies you will like? Step one is, check the opinions of people just like you. This approach to harvesting value from data has been standard practice in the retail industry in the U.S. for more than a decade. Our small contribution is the development of strategies and resources designed to be useful at smaller nonprofits.

We hold ourselves accountable for the accuracy and reliability of the information we distribute and stand behind that information, subject to reasonable limits. We are always happy to discuss projects over the phone. The best way to get in touch with us is via the email form below. The "Contact" button at the top of the page will bring up the form.

Some of our clients


American Kennel Club
Arc of Middlesex County
De La Salle Academy
Bipartisan Policy Center
City As Living Laboratory
Children's Museum of Manhattan
HALT PennEast
Martha Graham Dance Company
Museum of the Moving Image
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
New Yorkers for Parks
St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, NY
W!SE: Working in Support of Education
Union Settlement Association


How to contact us


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