Data and the Sector: Using Data to Drive Effective Philanthropy

This is a guest post by Teri Behrens, Ph.D. It was originally published on the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s blog.


When we talk about the role of data in philanthropy, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is evaluation. The sector has become very focused on measuring outcomes and impact — and that is a good thing. However, that’s only one of the ways in which data play an important role in the sector. Over the next three months, the Johnson Center and our partners will be exploring the many roles that data plays in our work, whether you represent a foundation, a nonprofit, an individual donor, or a social enterprise.

Data about our sector are important for a variety of purposes. Data on topics such as who gives and why, how many foundations there are and the issues they fund, how many nonprofits there are and the focus of their work, and what new ways of giving are emerging, all helps to inform tax and public policy and to identify needs and opportunities to promote private giving for public good. Analysis of itemized deductions for charitable contributions on U.S. tax returns, for example, is used to estimate the amount of funding that individuals provide to support philanthropic work. In addition to informing tax policy, this data helps nonprofit fundraisers target their fundraising efforts and plan their futures. Changes over time in the amount of individual giving can be an indicator of underlying confidence in the economy and in the sector.

Read the rest of the post here.

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