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 Sapna Varghese

Director of Advancement Research 



Sandra Nicholes

Prospect Researcher 301.445.1952


Bethany Jones

Office Clerk


Letter from the Director

Dear Colleagues,

We recently came across the term "data philanthropy" in a 2018 report from the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy titled, 
"Data Philanthropy: Unlocking the Power of Private Data for Public Good," and were curious to find out how it could impact fundraising in higher education.
The report defines data philanthropy as the practice of private companies responsibly sharing data with nonprofits, researchers, businesses, governments and the public. An early example of data philanthropy is a pilot program created by Twitter in 2014 called Data Grants.  Data Grants provided a handful of research institutions access to Twitter's public and historical data, which previously had been inaccessible to those outside of the company. Previously, Twitter offered access to their "firehose"-a real-time stream of all public tweets-to companies or researchers for a price. In 2014, a pediatrics team from Harvard Medical School was one of six teams given a grant from Twitter in order to complete research on the spread of food-borne illnesses.
The report by the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy includes a case study of a partnership between the Urban Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The partnership allowed the Urban Institute to explore Mastercard's data and use it to understand issues related to charitable giving and inclusive redevelopment in US cities. According to the report, detailed information on charitable giving remains a significant knowledge gap in the nonprofit sector-the most common source of information comes from tax data that is reported by nonprofits. Unfortunately, tax data is not immediately available as it takes more than a year to be processed and made available to the public. Furthermore, the information provided from the IRS only includes data from organizations that are required to publicly report their finances. Mastercard's data includes insights from small nonprofits that are not required to report, as well as information on the number of charitable transactions and aggregated daily giving.
Despite the fact that data philanthropy's boundaries are still being established (the report notes that the private companies providing data often define the practice differently than researchers and beneficiaries) it is still a practice that nonprofits should be mindful of. Data philanthropy has the potential to inform researchers and fundraisers about trends in charitable giving, campaigns, and more.
We hope you are enjoying the summer and getting ready to embrace the changes of the fall season. As always, please feel free to reach out to us with questions, comments or any assistance with prospect research!

Best Regards,
Sapna and USM Advancement Research Team

According to Bloomerang,  researching the following things about prospects can lead to new solicitation insights: their existing relationships with your nonprofit, their relationships with other organizations, their history of charitable and political giving, their engagement with communication channels, and their meaningful professional connections. Using these data points can inform development strategies and improve your rate of donor response. Read the full list here.

There is even more evidence to suggest that the face of wealth is changing. At a Forbes Philanthropy Forum in May of this year, the number of female participants almost matched the number of male participants. Between 2010 and 2015, private wealth held by women grew by 50 percent. On Forbes' 2018 list of billionaires, 256 billionaires were women--an all time high. However, the majority of wealth is still controlled by men. Only eight percent of partners among top 100 venture firms were female according to a Crunchbase report. Despite this, studies suggest that when women begin to control more wealth, the face of philanthropy will change. According to Forbes, female philanthropists will make "three big bets"--first, that philanthropy ought to move from an ego-sytem to an ecosystem; second, that investing in women and girls yields one of the best social returns; and third, that philanthropy is not separate from investments, and impact investing can enable philanthropists to amplify their impact. Read the full article here.

Articles and studies seem to suggest that charitable giving is on the upswing. However, the Chronicle   points to worrisome trends in philanthropy. First, the share of Americans who give to charity is declining. In 2014, 56 percent of American households made a charitable donation and in 2000, the number was 10 percentage points higher. Second, the decline is likely not millennials' fault. Across the board, charitable giving at every age group at every level of income and education has dropped. Third, nonprofits are increasingly relying on the wealthy for gifts. Fourth, nonprofits are testing new ways to find and maintain donors and have even begun sending canvassers door to door. Fifth, major philanthropists such as the Gates Foundation's Giving by All project commits $2 million to $3 million a year to charities that are coming up with innovative ways to raise money. Lastly, the Chronicle suggests that charities should consider gearing up planned giving, as $9 trillion will pass from American estates in the next decade.  

Companies are partnering with colleges to develop a better future workforce. Google will offer students at 25 community colleges their IT Support Professional Certificate, which gives students access to courses on everything from applied digital skills to IT security. Amazon has partnered with Northern Virginia Community College to offer students a chance to learn about cloud computing. These collaborations will use credentialing to teach students skills relevant to the workforce as well as showcase these companies' latest technological innovations and research. According to UMCP President Loh, these partnerships can "prepare a new generation of workers and business leaders." Read the full article here.

Rachel Stephenson Sheff, the producer of the podcast, What Donors Want, engages with guests ranging from fundraisers to donors. She wrote a blog post titled "Five Fundraising Tips" for GuideStar that she says is "straight from the donor's mouth." Stephenson Sheff suggests that fundraisers should not push something on a donor that doesn't fit the donor's strategy right out of the gate. She also suggests building a genuine relationship with a donor that is grounded in the donor's passion and strengths. Always remember to frame prospects as partners and not cash registers. Use "partnership" and "support" in favor of phrases such as "funding" or "contribution." Stephenson Sheff encourages making mistakes and being authentic. Too often, pitches are too glossy and come across as inauthentic to the donor. Read the full list here.

As we have heard before, donor retention is all about giving your donors a meaningful experience. Donors want to feel valued and recognized and doing so involves more than assessing a donor's wealth and giving history. According to The Nonprofit Times, organizations can build more meaningful relationships with donors by using data and creating a listening program. To do so, find out what events your donors attended, what links they click in your emails or newsletters, and what content they are consuming. Second, simply ask your donors how they want to be engaged and how often. Similarly, use social media to see what others are saying about your organization. Third, understand what kind of immersive experiences your donors are looking for based on what you've gleaned from data and insights. Building a listening program and leveraging data can lead to a bigger payoff for both you and your donors. Read more here.