What is Big Data and what does it have to do with the nonprofit sector?
Books and articles about Big Data are beginning to flow. But…just what the heck is that? In layperson’s terms, Big Data are data sets that are too large for existing data management tools to sort, analyze, and visualize in a reasonable set of time.
For example, a retailer like Wal-Mart has approximately 1 million transactions an hour, which are imported into a data set that has even more information. It’s almost 200 times larger than all of the information housed in the US Library of Congress, and let me tell you, that’s a big place. I once went to see what it looked like and whether they have some of my books on hand. They did.
Big Data doesn’t start or end with giant retailers. The Internet is proving a Big Data environment, too. Imagine how much data is residing with the 800,000 million users of Facebook. It must be staggering!
Before you write off the relevance of Big Data—with the smaller data demands of the nonprofit sector, hear me out. Yes, our data demands are smaller, but they’re no less important. For us, Big Data is being able to have the CRM, analytic, and visualization ability in a faster time period. That’s why companies like Blackbaud have cloud based data solutions that have sped up the ability to sort and make sense of larger and larger data sets (both offline and online). I’ve sat in a room and watched the speed of data analysis that a cloud-based Luminate CRM or Blackbaud CRM brings to the table. It’s impressive, and necessary.
We’ve got Big Data needs in the nonprofit sector too. It’s time that nonprofit organizations acted like Wal-Mart or Facebook and began to choose technical solutions that can meet the demands of Charitable Big Data.