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Top 5 Big Data Fundraising Myths

Resource Center - Foundation

Myth 1: I can only benefit from Big Data if my donor data is BIG.

Think again. The word “Big” in Big Data is misleading and doesn’t always mean that you need a huge quantity of donor data to get the results you need. Sure, you need a substantial amount to perform analytics on, but it’s key to remember that the buzz around the words Big Data is more about the quality of insights you can extract from your data to better improve your donor stewardship.

For organizations with mid-sized donor databases that are wondering if it’s even worth performing analytics on this amount of data, the answer is yes. A deeper understanding of your donors and participants, as well as determining the best channels and ways to communicate with them, will help you to fully realize the potential of your data. If we can understand one thing about Big Data it’s that the benefit doesn’t always come from how large data is, but rather what its potential is. Big Data really means Big Insights! 

Myth 2: Outsourcing Big Data expertise is not worth its high cost

If you’re a small organization processing 2,500 donations per year, you may not see the value in outsourcing for your data needs yet. But, if you are processing more than 30,000 donations per year, then it might be worth it to pair up with a team of data specialists who can help you deep dive into your data.

First, make sure to outsource your donation processing to a team that can capture multi-channel donor data in real-time and who will build an entire history-at-a-glance of your donors. Then, set up with another team whose focus is on improving your campaigns with analytics and insights. If you can find a vendor that provides both donation processing and analytics, you’ll create a seamless system worth the investment.

Myth 3: Big Data Is only for the For-Profit world, not for us Nonprofits

Big Data may be seen more often in large for-profit organizations because of the volume of information these companies create every day. However, there are some great fundraising organizations performing campaign optimization techniques and targeting analytics on top of Big Data too. These organizations began just like any other fundraiser, donation by donation.

But where they are ahead in the game is in their understanding of their data potential. Their investment in the data tools they need have helped them become the best fundraisers for their cause. It may be a more gradual process for nonprofits to invest in such tools, but it is important to take the steps to understand your data and how you can benefit from it.

Myth 4: This Big Data stuff is too time consuming and not worth the learning curve

You don’t need to become a Data Scientist overnight. Your job is connecting with donors and bringing in more donations, not sitting down with statistical software to do extensive evaluations of all your donor data. Reach out to a vendor who can help you further improve campaigns and help you to understand these valuable insights while keeping you up-to-date on the data trends in fundraising.

Myth 5: Competition has nothing to do with Big Data

Today, your competition wants to understand your donors better than you do.  So, if you look at it this way, Big Data is how you’re both going to get there. Who they are, details about them, how they donated, giving patterns - the more you know, the better equipped you are to receive a donation over your competitor. Remember, it’s not always the more you have, it’s the more you know.

To read more, download our white paper “The Big Data Way to Fundraise” a comprehensive step-by-step to help you get up to speed in the donor data game and realize your data potential.


Jamie Lehman is communications manager at Cornerstone Group of Companies, a leading provider of state-of-the-art donation processing and donor data management and analytics services. To find out more head to or contact Jamie at

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