September 2012

What can data do for philanthropy?

Volume 17 , Number 3

PDF - £10.00 Hard copy (£15.00)


September 2012

What can data do for philanthropy?

Volume 17 , Number 3

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We have entered the world of ‘Big Data’, but private philanthropy seems to have been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Why is this? Larry McGill looks at the potential payoffs for foundations of having better data, while Lucy Bernholz imagines what philanthropy and social investing will look like when they really get built around data, as opposed to adding data to existing practices, as happens now.

The special feature includes a conversation between Bradford Smith and Rosa Gallego, who compare notes on data collection and use in Europe and the US; a write-up of a virtual roundtable in which representatives from philanthropy organizations around the world discuss how data collection and sharing could be improved; and a collection of stories from around the globe illustrating creative uses of data. Cautions about potential pitfalls and limitations come from Maria Chertok, Luc Tayart de Borms, and Kelly Notcutt and Tamzin Ractcliffe, while Cole Nussbaumer and Jeff Stanger offer practical advice on how best to present your data.

The September issue of Alliance also includes a rundown of what foundations can take from Rio+20; Melissa Berman looking at how global giving has changed over the last ten years; Renata Truzzi and Lee Davis assessing the current state of social business in Brazil as the country prepares to host the Social Enterprise World Forum; an open letter to emerging philanthropists from Fay Twersky; and further opinion columns, articles, reviews, conference reports and global updates.

Special feature

Data for good

1 September 2012
Larry McGill

So, on top of everything else, foundations are supposed to compile and maintain data on their activities? And share it with other foundations? And perhaps even make it public? And do all of this willingly, because it will make philanthropy more effective? It is up to foundations to decide whether or not to do this, but it is becoming clearer every day that the answer is being thrust upon them, whether foundations are ready or …


Data aren’t just for geeks

When Larry McGill and I first talked about the possibility of doing a special feature on data and philanthropy over two years ago, I was open with him: I was afraid it might be boring. This seemed rude as data are so much the lifeblood of the Foundation Center, but I had to say it. Are data just for geeks? For me the way round the ‘will it be boring?’ dilemma was to steer away from describing new ‘tools’ and new technological developments and to focus single-mindedly on what data can do for philanthropy. I think of it in practical …


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Ten years of working at a global level has shown me the fault lines in the modern system of development …

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