Nonprofits: Master “medium data” before tackling big data

From Harvard Business Review:

Every day humanity adds approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data to our collective store of knowledge. Looking over this treasure trove, scientists, financiers, and business leaders are justifiably giddy about the potential of Big Data. For the nonprofit community, Big Data also offers immense potential. But with our mere billions of data points we're not quite ready for it. Instead, we need to get "medium data" right first.

Big Data is the search for meaning in the haystacks of massive databases of transactions, sensor readings, and records. For nonprofits, medium data is a humbler but essential prerequisite: structured information about who you are, what you're trying to do, and what's happening.


Of course, nonprofits cannot hope to magically reap the potential of medium data without some hard work. Here's what nonprofit leaders need to keep in mind:

3. Default to openness: Medium data only works if we share. Most nonprofits are simply too small to have a critical mass of data on their own. But together, we have enough data to reap immense insight and impact. There will always be data an organization should not share — but we need to switch our default from opacity to openness. Instead of opting-in to transparency when nonprofits feel like it, we should opt-out only when necessary.