CoolData blog

19 August 2014

Score! … As pictured by you

Filed under: Book, Peter Wylie, Score! — Tags: , , — kevinmacdonell @ 7:25 pm
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Left to right: Elisa Shoenberger, Leigh Petersen Visaya, Rebekah O’Brien, and Alison Rane in Chicago. (Click for full size.)

During the long stretch of time that Peter Wylie and I were writing our book, Score! Data-Driven Success for Your Advancement Team, there were days when I thought that even if we managed to get the thing done, it might not be that great. There were just so many pieces that needed to fit together somehow … I guess we each didn’t want to let the other down, so we plugged on despite doubts and delays, and then, somehow, it got finished.

Whew, I thought. Washed my hands of that! I expected I would walk away from it,  move on to other projects, and be glad that I had my early mornings and weekends back.

That’s not what happened.

These few months later, my eye will still be caught now and then by the striking, colourful cover of the book sitting on my desk. It draws me to pick it up and flip through it — even re-read bits. I find myself thinking, “Hey, I like this.”

Of course, who cares, right? I am not the reader. However, whatever I might think about Score!, it has been even more gratifying for Peter and I to hear from folks who seem to like it as much as we do. How fun it has been to see that bright cover popping up in photos and on social media every once in a while.

I’ve collected a few of those photos and tweets here, along with some other images related to the book. Feel free to post your own “Score selfies” on Twitter using the hashtag #scorethebook. Or if you’re not into Twitter, send me a photo at

Click here to order your copy of Score! from the CASE Bookstore.

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Jennifer Cunningham, Senior Director, Metrics+Marketing for the Office of Alumni Affairs, Cornell University. @jenlynham

Click here to order your copy of Score! from the CASE Bookstore.

While we would like for you to buy it, we would LOVE for you to read it and put it to work in your shop. Your buying it earns us each enough money to buy a cup of coffee. Your READING it furthers the reach and impact of ideas and concepts that fascinate us and which we love to share.


22 April 2014

Score! ships tomorrow

Filed under: Book, Score! — Tags: , , — kevinmacdonell @ 7:29 pm

scoreThe printer delivered early, and a copy of Score! showed up at CASE headquarters in Washington DC this afternoon.

(Doug Goldenberg-Hart, CASE’s Director, Editorial Projects sent this photo to prove it.)

To everyone who put in an advance order, your copy will be available to ship tomorrow (Wednesday).

Peter Wylie and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Click here to order.


















23 December 2013

New from CASE Books: Score!

Filed under: Book, CoolData, Peter Wylie — Tags: , , , — kevinmacdonell @ 9:39 am

CASE_coverAs the year draws to a close, I’m pleased to announce that the book I’ve co-written with Peter Wylie will be available in January. ‘Score!’ joins a host of fine publications in CASE’s new catalog. I’m looking forward to having a look through this catalog for new books for the office. (‘Score’ is featured on page 12.)

So what is this new book about? The full title is Score!: Data-Driven Success for Your Advancement Team, and as a recent of issue of BriefCASE notes: “Kevin MacDonell and Peter Wylie walk readers through compelling arguments for why an organization should adopt data-driven decision-making as well as explanations of basic issues such as identifying and mining the pertinent data and what operations to perform once that data is in hand.”

You can read the rest of that article here: Ready to Score!?

4 February 2010

The habit of giving, and the habit of testing

Filed under: Predictor variables — Tags: , , , — kevinmacdonell @ 9:33 am

I think it’s always interesting to know what patterns others have found that are predictive of giving. But it’s a mistake to latch onto them as if they were universal truths.

A story in the January 2010 issue of CASE Currents magazine (the publication of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education) alerted me to a new study which the story says “shows that alumni who gave to their alma mater every year in the first five years after graduation gave, on average, eight times more to the institution by their 20th year out than even those alumni who donated the same amount in the first few years but did not make a steady habit of it.”

The Habit of Giving (PDF) is the work of Jonathan Meer, an assistant professor of economics at Texas A&M University, and Harvey S. Rosen, a professor of economics and business policy at New Jersey’s Princeton University.

Meer’s research focuses on habit formation. In this case, he’s trying to parse out the influence of habit from other influences, such as solicitation by one’s former roommates or performance of the school’s athletic teams. Many fundraisers believe in the effect of habit – that small gifts early on will lead to big gifts later in life – but Meer sets out to determine the truth.

This is very interesting, of course. But too often these findings are stated in language that assumes that patterns, once found, must apply everywhere. Meer’s findings are based on data from a single private research university. He writes, “It seems evident that the pursuit of frequent gifts from young alumni, even if the university suffers a loss in the process, is justified.”

Really? Justified for the single institution in his study, yes. But for my institution? Or yours?

I don’t doubt there are patterns relating to charitable giving that are woven through the entire fabric of humanity. But when it comes down to return on investment for a single enterprise, wouldn’t it make sense to test the assumption first?

(In any case, I encourage you to read Meer’s paper; I’ve given it rather short shrift here.)

A thought about ‘habit‘ … Meer observes that many of us in fundraising put faith in instilling the good habit of giving. I’m not one of them. I don’t actually believe in ‘good’ habits. Habitual behaviour is mindless, and habits drift in and out of our lives mindlessly. Paradoxically perhaps, habit is inconstant and unreliable.

Isn’t charitable giving something that people should intend to do? And shouldn’t we earn it? Nothing should let us off the hook from making our case to donors.

The more that giving is based on intent, the more unpredictable it will be. Our models will never ‘explain’ all or even the majority of the variability of giving. I rather like living in a world where predictable, knee-jerk herd behaviour is trumped by unpredictable (but meaningful) personal choice. Even if it makes my job harder!

28 January 2010

The patience of Peter

Filed under: Peter Wylie — Tags: , , — kevinmacdonell @ 2:08 pm

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while will know that I’m a disciple of Peter Wylie, a pioneer in predictive modeling for fundraising. So I’ve been waiting for the latest issue of CASE Currents magazine to come in the door, knowing that it features an interview with him.

Well, turns out it’s online – for the next couple of weeks, anyway. CASE’s Diane Webber-Thrush sits down with Peter for a piece called Adjusting Your Gaze.

Peter is always working on something new, often in collaboration with John Sammis of Data Description, publisher of DataDesk. But his message is consistent: Institutions of higher learning are sitting on huge piles of data that they could leverage for fundraising, and too many institutions just aren’t doing it.

Part of his consistent message is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. In his books and presentations he resists the pull to make data mining sound exotic or difficult for regular folk to understand. Unlike a lot of us, he doesn’t talk much about multiple regression.

Of course, he could if he wanted to. I myself didn’t know a thing about regression until he and John Sammis introduced me to it. But I guess he’s thinking of all the fundraisers (non-data geeks for the most part) that he might leave in the dust.

A consistent message, a simple method, with proven results. No wonder there is so much interest in the field. And yet …

And yet: Why do I get the feeling that there are a heck of a lot more people “interested” and not so many people “doing”? Is the allure surrounding the terms ‘data mining’ and ‘predictive modeling’ really doing the field any favours?

Peter Wylie tells CASE Currents that the education sector is only just beginning to realize the full potential of its own data. Keep in mind, he’s been working in this field since 1997.

Pioneer, yes. AND a very patient and optimistic guy.

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