Earlier this year, Unissant, Inc.’s Mark Bolgiano gave a keynote speech to the National Council of Nonprofits in which he offered a vision of how the data revolution could change the way nonprofits worked.
Bolgiano demonstrated how nonprofits could take advantage of free public data sources and use new technologies to gather and analyze data at little or no cost as part of their “listening post” role to track information about their communities, or as a thought leader interested in learning about and distributing new practices and ideas. He went on to demonstrate the use of “fire hose” services with metrics and detail data on every mention of nonprofits in the previous 24 hours of Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress blogs.
In addition, Bolgiano also introduced the concept of a public data utility for nonprofits, citing the evolution of GuideStar, a public charity that collects, analyzes, and publishes information on nonprofit organizations as an example of this trend in the nonprofit sector.
As the keynote concluded, Bolgiano challenged state council leaders to participate in a national “data lab project” to give member organizations hands-on experience and learn to take advantage of the growth of free public data sources, new methods for gathering information, and using desktop software such as Excel to analyze and visualize data.