Impact Measurement

The Generosity Spectrum: Shaping Future Trends in Giving


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Untapped Philanthropy S3E7



Kerrin and Tim sat down with Woodrow Rosenbaum, the Chief Data Officer for Giving Tuesday, to talk about how he has been able to leverage his history in growing consumer brands to drive expanded growth within the Giving Tuesday movement. Woodrow’s role was initially to collect data and create benchmarks and key metrics of the growth of Giving Tuesday as a movement, but it became more than that as he and his team dug in. As Woodrow states:

“ we began to collect data in order to get that job done, we ran into the same problems that the nonprofit sector has been facing for a long time - lack of data, it's siloed, it's opaque, and we had to solve some of those problems in order to get measures of this distributed and open source movement. By solving those problems for ourselves, what we ended up with was assets for the whole sector. And so now this effort goes beyond just what is going on, on Giving Tuesday, which is still really fascinating and a useful research opportunity. But all but much more broadly, ’what are the motivators of generosity?’”

Woodrow continues to talk about how, coming out of the pandemic and lockdowns, the impact that had on everyone was that generosity is multifaceted, multidimensional and prolific. Without a larger data set, this wasn’t as clear, but as they pulled more data they saw that there are more dimensions to generosity, more than the transactional nature of giving to a charity or non-profit. There is a relationship that exists between people who give - Woodrow illustrates the “really enormous gap between what generosity actually is and what motivates it and what the impacts are from the things that we have been measuring historically.”

Aligning with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project

Woodrow talks about how he was able to leverage his extensive experience in commercial marketing to uncover challenges and data strategies for the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP). As Giving Tuesday started generating new data, they were able to answer many questions they couldn’t have done before. However, they needed benchmark data to compare that with, which FEP had - clean, stable data from 20 years back - which help with benchmarking and uncovering trends. 

“As the partnership with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project grew and we started to take on the technical development of that body of work, it gave us an opportunity to give those data providers the kind of value that commercial sector players have -an understanding of where you fit within the market and how you can drive your own outcomes, but then ultimately the outcomes for your clients and the sector. That's the norm, right?”

Managing Relationships over Technology

The partnerships with the FEP and Data Commons is important, but as Woodrow states the relationships matter most over the technology. While folks like Woodrow build technology and data assets, that technology is based on relationships and ensuring that stakeholders continue to gain value from it. Fostering those relationships will help for more participation in how they gather and learn from that data:

“We look at it as kind of a Venn diagram. We have our areas of inquiry and prior research priorities and our mission outcomes, and so do our stakeholders. And we try to work in the intersection of those, but not expect everybody to get the same value, but rather we have an environment in which everybody could get the value that is needed for them.”

Breaking the Bias of GDP as a Benchmark for Giving

One of the points both Tim and Kerrin make is the comparison to how much giving is trending against the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is limiting to the global scope, but also limits the overall potential of how we benchmark and measure the level of giving. Woodrow’s goal is to look at the data form within the community and make assumptions and analysis against those metrics to help drive trends:

“What we see is that generosity is abundant, it's diverse, and it's robust. So that means that, if we have a problem, it's actually a lot more limited than we might have otherwise thought. If we're only measuring participation in nonprofit fundraising and total donation dollars to nonprofits, that lends us to a different expectation. What we clearly see is that a lot of the prevalent beliefs about competition, about a fixed sum environment, just don't [sic] hold up, that data don't support that that's the reality. So we see that giving is actually pretty generative. The best indicator somebody's going to take some action for good is that they've taken some other action for good. And that means things like giving to a political campaign or to an individual's crowdfunding campaign…So what we see is in fact that the more generous people are and the more ways in which they find opportunities to leverage their generosity, the more likely they are to be supportive of nonprofits.”

Listen above for more insights and engaging conversation with Woodrow, Tim and Kerrin.

Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. Learn more about the movement and how you can contribute here: 

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Download the transcript here.

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