Virtual Roundtables

#GivingTuesday Data Collaborative

Lucy Bernholz, Asha Curran, and Josh Levy discuss the challenges of building a governance plan and digital infrastructure for giving data worldwide

You’ve probably heard about #GivingTuesday, the thriving global movement launched in 2012 that mobilizes resources, unmeasurable acts of kindness, and hundreds of millions in charitable donations in the United States alone. The distributed nature of #GivingTuesday is the biggest factor driving its growth, in that anyone can participate. Nonprofits can design their own campaigns, experiment with branding and messaging, and use the donation portal of their choice.

What happens to the data collected by hundreds of #GivingTuesday giving platforms, payment processors, social media companies, and nonprofits around the world? How can these diverse data sources come together to yield a rich, detailed picture of giving trends? Can this type of global, cross-sector data sharing be done safely and securely?

To answer these questions, the movement’s leaders launched the #GivingTuesday Data Collaborative, an ambitious cross-sectoral project that yields actionable insights and data-driven fundraising tools for the social sector while protecting data privacy and security.


The way people engage with giving has evolved and will continue to do so: Asha Curran says, “The way people express their generosity in this age is fundamentally different, not just from a generation ago but even from five, ten, two years ago. It’s changing all the time.”

Widespread and decentralized, giving data can tell a powerful story: Curran, who hadn’t realized there wasn’t a centralized repository for giving data, “slowly started learning how data in the sector really works and how very, very difficult it was for me to even cobble together anything resembling a comprehensive aggregate number of dollars.” Forming relationships with giving platforms and payment processors uncovered  “a massive world” that offered a unique and comprehensive look at data in the sector.

Most organizations overlook the security and privacy component completely: Josh Levy suggests always looking at philanthropic data projects through a security and privacy lens, and investigating products carefully before implementing them. “It’s definitely worth the investment if you care about protecting the privacy and security of your users and walking the walk when it comes to these issues.”

Collaboration is in critical condition; data philanthropy can help: Pooling data for the common benefit is something everyone in the social sector can benefit from. Nonprofits can learn from private sector partnerships, where pooling data for analysis and sharing it back increases the bottom line for everyone involved. Curran Says “there’s far too little collaboration in a sector that is supposed to exist for so many good social purposes,” adding that “what the data collaborative is becoming for the sector is something that most for-profit industries have had for decades.”

Innovating data isn’t about “moving fast and breaking things,” it’s about claiming your place as a leader: Levy encourages organizations to “lead publicly” by putting data governance models in motion at the start of their projects, adding that nonprofits are innovative when they handle data governance “from the ground up, rather than creating loads of data, then having to figure out what to do with it.”

Audio Podcast and Transcript

Watch the video or listen below, and visit the Digital Impact podcast on iTunes. Check back soon for transcript and resources, and follow us on Twitter @dgtlimpact for updates.

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