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Five Ways to Use Data to Maximize Your Charitable Giving

Huntsville is a data-driven town . . . always has been and always will be.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that donors in our area are interested in how data can help maximize their charitable giving. 

Here are five ways that savvy donors can use data to inform their philanthropy:

  • Identify gaps

If you want to understand our community better, you can use data from the Community Foundation’s Vital Signs project ( to do a survey of key data points affecting our area.  Where are we doing well?  Where are we not?  What surprises do you uncover?  Are their significant gaps that you would like to understand better?  Are their gaps that you would like to use your charitable dollars to address?

  • Inform key issues

Based on what you are seeing in the Vital Signs report, decide where you want to dig in to learn more.  Is the gap you are seeing typical across all counties in our service area?  How does it compare to state or national statistics?  What else can you learn about this issue, including underlying causes or innovative solutions?  Are there other underlying considerations – or root causes – that you need to probe?

  • Invest strategically

Once you discover a gap that you want to address and once you learn more about the issue to solidify your commitment to this particular area, you will want to uncover who is working in this area to address these issues.  The Community Foundation hosts a Nonprofit Directory, organized by focus area, which allows donors to explore organizations in our community and to learn more about the issues they are seeking to address.  Where will you invest your charitable dollars to move the needle on issues that you care about?  In other words, where can you plant your flag to make a difference in our community?

  • Impact for change

After you donate to an organization that is aligned with your passions, your work is not done!  Just as you wouldn’t make a financial investment and never review your returns, you shouldn’t do that with your charitable investments either.  How is the organization you are supporting stewarding your donation?  Are they making a difference in the areas that are important to you?  We all know that change doesn’t happen overnight, and change on important societal challenges likewise takes time.  But, you should see progress in some areas or at least gain a better understanding of what needs to happen next to create the progress that’s needed. 

  • Initiate review

Like any good process, philanthropy requires constant review and revision.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What have you learned that will better help you invest your next round of charitable donations?   Are you satisfied with the results, or do you need to make adjustments on where you want to donate?  Based on the time and the amount of charitable investment, you should be able to revisit the Vital Signs and see the metrics moving favorably over time. 

When you think of philanthropy as a charitable investment in creating the community you want to build, it’s clear that data needs to be an important part of your decision-making process.  At the Community Foundation, we believe that informed donors make better decisions with their charitable investments.  That’s why we are committed to providing tools to help mobilize generosity to better improve the quality of life in our community.  We’d love to help you maximize your charitable investments, too.  If you’d like to learn more about charitable giving through the Community Foundation, please contact us at