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'Alliance' Magazine: What Can Data Do for Philanthropy?

September 13, 2012

Data-philanthropyLast week, UK-based Alliance magazine published its September issue, which includes a special section on "What data can do for philanthropy" that was guest-edited by the Foundation Center's Larry McGill and Mitch Nauffts and data wonk extraordinaire Lucy Bernholz. As we've done in the past with other special features dedicated to giving and philanthropy (here and here), we've put together a brief overview of the special feature for your convenience. Enjoy.

"Data for Good" (Larry McGill, Vice President for Research, Foundation Center) -- Outlines some of "the payoffs of having data" (e.g., in support of advocacy efforts, market intelligence, monitoring and learning) and issues a call for "philanthropy to develop its own charter, laying out in clear terms the 'vision, principles, enablers, and resulting value' that underlie a commitment to establishing common data standards for the field." 

"A Conversation Between Rosa Gallego (Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe) and Bradford Smith (Foundation Center)" -- Discusses the state of data on philanthropy in both Europe and the United States, weaknesses in data collection, and the opportunities for growth and collaboration. 

"Data for What?" (Maria Chertok, Director, Charities Aid Foundation) -- Pushes back on the idea of complex data measures for social good, suggesting that organizations instead recognize the limitations present in data presentation and lean toward "simple data that can help [people] to understand what our sector is really about." 

"Three Cautions About Data" (Luc Tayart de Borms, Managing Director, King Baudouin Foundation) -- Seeks to "counterbalance some of what [has been said affirming data as the new asset class]...with three warning flags, each under the heading of a quote [by] Einstein." 

"Data-First Philanthropy" (Lucy Bernholz, Managing Director, Arabella Advisors) -- Suggests a future in which "data become the GPS of philanthropy."

"It's Not Just What You Know, It's How You Use It" (Andrew Milner, Associate Editor, Alliance magazine) -- Recaps a virtual roundtable discussion on what philanthropy knows, what it doesn't know, and what could it do better in terms of data collection featuring panelists from philanthropy associations and support groups around the world.

"Data Shadows: Challenges of a Data-Rich World" (Stephanie Hankey, Executive Director, Tactical Tech) -- Advises foundations to not only support groups working to address digital security challenges, "but also those who help users understand and control their digital shadows...."

"Visualizing Philanthropy: Storytelling With Data" (Cole Nussbaumer, Storytelling With Data) -- Offers a number of tips for those seeking to create effective data visualizations.

"The Narrative of Impact: It's Not Just the Numbers" (Kelly Notcutt, Strategic Communications, and Tamzin Ractliffe, Founder and CEO, Nexii) -- Reminds readers that when using data to report on impact, qualitative information matters as well -- often as much, if not more, than the numbers. 

"Supporting Data Collection by the Poor" (Sheela Patel, Director, Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers) -- Discusses how SPARC has "been able to demonstrate that communities often collect better data about themselves and use it more effectively than professionals can."

"Six Degrees of Capitalization" (James Leaton, Project Director, and Mark Campanale, Director, Carbon Tracker) -- Explains how Carbon Tracker turned a theory about capital markets financing "more coal and oil than could safely be burned" into robust data.

"Encouraging Sustainable Land Investments" (Alejandro Litovsky, Founder, Earth Security Initiative) -- Discusses how ESI intends to use data to develop the Land Security Index, an analysis of disparate environmental trends such as water limits, land degradation, food security, governance, and climate change. 

"Moving the Tanker" (Caroline Fiennes, Director of Giving Evidence, and Jeff Mosenkis, Global Outreach Coordinator of Innovations for Poverty Action) -- Calls attention to the need for more testing of programs before they are fully implemented and/or scaled. 

"Putting Family Foundations on the Map" (Cathy Pharoah, Director of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, and Charles Keidan, Director of the Pears Foundation) -- Shares findings from a recent report on family foundation giving trends that "helped establish family foundations as a distinct field of philanthropy in Europe, as it is in the U.S."

Glossary -- Eight terms frequently used when describing data in a philanthropic context. 

Data resources -- Lists tools that "are intended to help you think about your data in new and more interactive ways."

-- The Editors

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