Case Study

Targeting Higher Education Development Outreach


The organization

EverTrue works with higher education “advancement teams” to identify, prioritize, and manage fundraising donors with useful insights and easy-to-use software. By combining client databases with other data sources such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and more, EverTrue surfaces insights that help drive more effective, more targeted alumni relations and fundraising efforts.

The challenge

One particularly difficult problem that EverTrue wanted to untangle was how to predict major gift donations. These gifts are non-repeated, large donations that represent a substantial source of funding for these institutions. Having a better view into these gifts - when they are likely to occur and from which alumni - enables advancement teams to prioritize outreach and dedicate their time to activities that are most likely to pay off. However, making these predictions for major gift events is much more difficult than for other more consistent measures like annual fund donations.

The approach

This is where DrivenData came in. Our data science team worked with EverTrue to understand how the factors that they collect affect major gift donations. Our end-to-end approach included exploring and visualizing the available data, evaluating select open datasets to see if they could add useful signal, developing statistical models, creating reproducible data pipelines to generate predictions from incoming data, testing low-fidelity prototypes with target customers, and implementing a cross-institution model at scale using Apache Spark.

The outcome

The prototypes were field tested with four of EverTrue’s customers, generating half a million predictions and recommending the most likely major gift donors for outreach. The final approach as a multi-level model that learned from patterns across schools and then tailored its predictions to specific properties of each institution. As EverTrue grows its platform, it will be able to build these capabilities into the product it offers all customers.

Matt Sly, Vice President of Products at Evertrue, found DrivenData an invaluable partner in building out EverTrue's approach to data and analytics:

"DrivenData's approach is both pragmatic and innovative - they were able to deliver a compelling and well-documented predictive model as well as very concrete suggestions on how to improve and expand our data model and infrastructure."

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