Dealing with data exhaust is a lot like spring cleaning your closet: trying to determine what you’re going to use again, getting rid of what you won’t, and making hard decisions about items you’re on the fence about. Just like spring cleaning is essential to avoiding an overflowing closet, addressing data exhaust is key to avoiding an undue amount of superfluous donor information.
Dealing with data exhaust, or residual information collected during online interactions, is key to nonprofit organizations entering the 21st century.
Data can be collected any number of ways, from social networks to an organization’s own web platform. However, the usefulness of this data can be subjective. What is relevant to a campaign in the present might not be further down the road. Therefore, it is important for nonprofit organizations to have policies regarding data usage, especially in regards to data security.
According to Jon Dartley, Ph.D., an attorney with the law firm Perlman & Perlman, apps on mobile devices often yield more valuable data exhaust than websites, a space which nonprofits have yet to make a large presence.
Data exhaust has long existed, but is accumulating at a greater rate due to the use of technology. By embracing this technology, nonprofits can better understand potential supporters. Organizations can gather information on their website using cookies, web beacons, and other technologies. This information can be useful in illustrating what is interesting to potential donors.
Existing privacy policies are often insufficient. Dartley recommended combing over privacy policies annually to ensure that all ways that the organization collects data are included.