How does your data flow?

Perpetual Impact

For the past two years Perpetual has been collaborating with Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, looking at a range of issues around how philanthropy works in a digital society. As part of that program we surveyed NFP board members and employees to understand their thinking on these issues.

In 2016 we focused on digitisation and the impact it was having on NFPs. In 2017, our questions delved into how information is managed within NFPs.


Here are some of the key findings:

Sharing and not sharing

In the digital world, there are increasing sensitivities about the data you are asked for and the data you seek from others. That dynamic is playing out in the NFP space as well.

  • Around 30% of NFP employees/board members had been asked (by funders) for data they were unwilling or unable to provide
  • Conversely, some 15% of NFP employees/board members had been told (by grantees) that the NFP was asking for data they didn’t want to – or couldn’t – provide.


Data policy

As Caitriona Fay, Perpetual’s National Manager, Philanthropy and Non-Profit Services recently wrote, one of the big challenges for non-profit organisations is “having the infrastructure required to collect, store, use and destroy digital data safely, ethically and effectively.”

In the recent research, both NFP board members and employees identified government privacy policies as the data policy framework having most impact on their work.


Using Data

We asked respondents what were the biggest challenges they faced using digital data. There was an interesting split. Employees are much more concerned about the practicalities of using data. Board members’ focus is on data security.

A similar diversion occurs when we asked what would help NFPs manage these challenges. While board members thought more funding was the answer, employees were more practical, saying staff training was the top priority.

Key take outs

"My read of the findings is that the board member/employee focus on infrastructure and training is highlighting the same thing – that funders need to recognise the investment requirements to build the capability of NFPs. From a governance perspective NFP boards don't feel as though they have the right tools in place to protect and store data. And if you don’t have staff who are trained to effectively and ethically collect and use data, all the organisation is left holding is the risk associated with data. Philanthropists have a critical role to play in both these areas but that means they need to understand the risks and opportunities that come with operating in a digital age." Caitriona Fay


About the survey

In June 2017, we surveyed a mix of employees and board members from NFPs across Australia. We received 148 responses.

Over the next few months we’ll be posting more content from the Stanford PACS visit on the Perpetual website and on our LinkedIn page.

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Perpetual’s Philanthropic Services are provided by Perpetual Trustee Company Limited (PTCo), ABN 42 000 001 007, AFSL 236643. This publication has been prepared by PTCo and may contain  information contributed by third parties. It contains general information only and is not intended to provide you with advice or take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. The information is believed to be accurate at the time of compilation and is provided by PTCo in good faith. You should consider whether the information is suitable for your circumstances and we recommend that you seek professional advice. To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information. PTCo does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any wording in this document which was contributed by a third party. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.