by Alex McMillan, communications champion at Our Community

The Takeaway: Data science helps us find useful answers to pressing questions but effective communications is critically important in delivering insights to the public. In particular, effective storytelling and graphic design is a crucial precondition for the ignition of systemic change. Undertaking such a project requires a multi-disciplinary approach.


The Our Community House Data & Communications Lab wrapped up its first project in April 2019. …

Summary: We examined whether men and women give differently through GiveNow. We found that women are three times more likely to donate to Animal Welfare causes on GiveNow than men, and are also more likely to favour Women, International and Multicultural causes. Men, in turn, donate twice as frequently to Gay & Lesbian causes, and are also more likely to favour Science & Technology, Education & Scholarships and Sports & Recreation-focused causes. Women are more likely to give small amounts more frequently than men, while men are more likely to donate large amounts less frequently (the combined effect of which is more or less equal giving by women and men). People give more money in total through one-off donations than recurring donations through GiveNow. …

SUMMARY: Following a recent inquiry by ABC News Northern Territory, we investigated (1) whether or not the average GiveNow donation value in the NT was not just larger, but also statistically significantly larger than the average donation in other states, and (2) the underlying reasons for the apparent generosity of NT donors. We found that NT donors do indeed donate statistically significantly higher amounts, on average, compared to most other states (with the exception of NSW). Where this difference stems from remains an open question, because correlation does not imply causation. …

By Paola Oliva-Altamirano, Data Scientist, Our Community

SUMMARY: Tracking the flow of funding and other support to social sector organisations in Australia has historically been difficult because of inconsistencies in categorisation, or the absence of categorisation entirely.

Our Community developed CLASSIE to serve as a universal classification system for Australian social sector initiatives and entities.

We are now developing an algorithm to reduce or remove the need for manual (human) classification. …

By Joost van der Linden, Data Scientist at Our Community

In this project, Our Community’s Innovation Lab explores how suggested donations influence giving, and how not-for-profit causes can increase their giving by altering these suggested amounts.

In the past, we based the default suggested donation amounts on our extensive experience with fundraising, as well as feedback from the organisations that use GiveNow to raise money. While the default values had worked well (GiveNow has raised close to $100 million dollars over its 15-year history) we were intrigued by the possibility of boosting donations by changing the suggested amounts.

There is some evidence in academic literature that donors are influenced by suggested donations. We wondered if there might be some “optimal” suggested donation values (not too high as to turn people off, not too low as to leave money on the table) that would maximise the total amount raised by an organisation using GiveNow. We set out to answer these questions. …

By the Our Community Innovation Lab Team

Summary: Our Community’s latest data science project combines two of our passions: grants and gender equity. We set out to find out whether an applicant’s gender would affect the result of their application for funds.We found that women submit more grant applications than men. However, where a grant is very big ($1 million +), men are more likely to apply (though women are more likely than men to be successful in applications for large grants). …

By Joost van der Linden, Data Scientist at Our Community

At Our Community, we do a lot of thinking about the future of grantmaking. For example, what role (if any) should automatic assessment methods play? We have seen some profound progress in assessment algorithms recently, to assess compounds for new viable drugs, identify suicidal risk to aid crisis counselors, automatically diagnose heart diseases and lung cancer, and much more. However, these algorithms are not without risk. What can machine learning and artificial intelligence do for the grantmaking assessment process, and what are the risks?

Suppose we wish to develop an algorithm that automatically shortlists the most promising grant applications. A grantmaker may receive thousands of applications. They may want to reduce their workload by asking the algorithm to reduce the entire set of applications to the most promising ones, with the shortlist to be further assessed by the human assessors. Immediately, some alarm bells start to ring. …

By Sarah Barker, Our Community Innovation Lab Director

We’re living in a digital age, and moving quickly into a new data era. Yet new research undertaken exclusively by Our Community’s data intelligence initiative, the Innovation Lab, shows ICT expertise on not-for-profit boards is failing to keep pace with the digital world.

We’ve examined not-for-profit board recruitment data from 2008 to 2017 and found that boards are not seeking new directors with a good understanding of ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

You might assume, then, that the demand for ICT skills on not-for-profit boards and executive teams would be increasing, but our analysis shows this is not the case. …

By Kathy Richardson, Our Community Executive Director and Chaos Controller

If you’re a university researcher, a business looking to ramp up, or any one of Australia’s 600,000 not-for-profit organisations, you can’t avoid the world of grants.

Around $56 billion is given out in grants across Australia every year. They’re dispensed by local councils, state and federal government departments and agencies, by family foundations, community foundations, and corporate foundations. Each funder is looking for a different outcome, but few to none have no expectations about outcomes — grants aren’t gifts; they come with strings attached .

Good outcomes are not guaranteed, however, and countless auditors’ reports have shown that many millions of dollars worth of grants have been wasted on projects that did not work or whose lessons were not heeded. Common problems include poor program design, inadequate technical and administrative systems, and too much outside interference in the selection process. …


Our Community Innovation Lab

We exist to ensure sure the social sector can grasp the possibilities presented by new technological tools and advances in data science.

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