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With the release of
the book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using
Data to Change the World,
I'm looking forward to participating in the conversation about how nonprofits
can use measurement, data, and learning to for social change.
is a theme I'm seeing discussed this past month in both the for-profit and
nonprofit sectors. It refers to large datasets that requires powerful
software tools to capture, store, search, sharing, analysis, visualization
and sense-making – or what DJ Patel calls "Data Jutjitsu." I love this stuff, but it
could become a shiny object or distraction for nonprofits that have yet learned
how to "jutjitsu" the small data sets they are collecting internally.
Here's a terrific
round up of posts about "big data for small nonprofits" from the good folks at Wild Apricot. But I think jumping into a process: "Gather, Analyze, and Act" without defining success (or failure) on the front end might lead to
DoSomething.org has a big social change goal:
To harness teenage energy and unleash it through national campaigns on causes teens care
about. The call to action is always something
that has a real impact and does not require money, an adult, or a car. Their measurable goal is to get 5 million active teen members engaged in social
change campaigns by 2015. They use social media, mobile, and
data strategically selected and use to reach that goal.
A recent example is
their "Pregnancy Text" campaign featured on their quarterly dashboard. This clever sex education campaign is an updated
version of the teen pregnancy education program where young people carried eggs around and pretend they are babies.
It was a
text campaign where teens opted-in to receive texts on their mobile phones from
the "baby." Once they joined (and they could share it with their
friends), they received regular annoying text messages at all hours from the "baby" that poops, cries, and needs their immediate attention.
The team at
DoSomething.org uses data to base the program design, key performance
indicators, and a hypothesis to be tested.
They looked at survey
data from the National Campaign: nearly 9 in 10 (87%) young
people surveyed also say that it would be much easier for teens to delay sexual
activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest
conversations about these topics with their parents and/or friends. So, success of this campaign would be mean that participants talk with
their family or friends about the issue and delay sexual activity.
The basic design had
those who signed up challenge their friends to take care of a text baby either
Participants that accepted the challenge would then start
receiving texts the following morning from the text-baby. After
completing the challenge user were prompted to send it to their own friends.
followed up with 5,000 of the users with a text-based survey to measure impact.
Once defining success
and identifying the right data collect, here are some of the insights they
gleaned according to Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething and Jeffrey Bladt:
Big scare tactics (for example, getting pregnant = not going to college) we
not as effective as highlighting how being a teen parent changes daily life
(for example, can't go to the movies because babysitter cancelled);
CDC report that
found: "The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages directed to
teenagers has been credited with the [recent] teen birth rates decline."
As you can see from
the above insights, DoSomething just not gather and analyze topline data:
I heard Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the White House, speak about Big Data at the Mashable Social Good Summit say, "Data
by itself is useless. I can't feed my baby daughter data, as much as I'd love
to because I love data. It's only useful if you apply it to create an actual
You can't do that unless identify your results, collect the
right data, and generate insights.
How is your nonprofit
using data to change the world? Share in the comments below.
This post was authored by Beth Kanter, co-author of the new book Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, and creator of Beth's Blog,
where she writes how networked nonprofits leverage networks and data
for social change.
Becky Wiegand is the Interactive Events Producer at TechSoup.org
@bajeckabean on Twitter
I can't wait to read: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World. It's so exciting to see how data is being used to create change for good!