This blog originally appeared on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website. It is co-authored by Bridgespan Associate Consultant Colin Murphy.
As President Obama was recently inaugurated for his second term, it is worth asking what made his campaign succeed in the face of such strong economic and political headwinds? Nearly every analysis we’ve read suggests that the use of data and analytics was key factor.
Nonprofits can learn a lot from the way the Obama campaign approached performance measurement. For although the campaign’s resources dwarfed those of the typical nonprofit, the measurement practices it followed mirror those of high-performing organizations.
By following these measurement practices, the Obama campaign focused their resources on the most effective interventions, made smart resource allocation decisions, and adjusted rapidly as the context changed. One telling example of the latter: Late in the campaign, Obama made a highly successful appearance on the social networking website Reddit, which many of the President’s senior aides had never heard of, because the data team had determined that its users represented key turnout targets.
The Obama campaign took what author Sasha Issenberg, who closely observed the campaign’s data strategy, called “a decisive break with 20th-century tools for tracking public opinion.” What do you believe it will take for nonprofits to follow a similar course in their measurement approaches?
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