Josh Birkholz

Redefining fundraising for the 21st Century.

Posting on analytics, technology, visualizations, fundraising, and other unrelated things I find interesting like Doctor Who, sci fi wierdness, crazy new ideas, and interesting people.

Author of Fundraising Analytics
Principal at Bentz Whaley Flessner

Founder of the analytics group donorcast

Acting Debut Top Chef Donorcast

Fan Favorite Data Hoarders Video

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I’m looking forward to seeing all of my prospect development friends in Chicago on Friday.  Here is the link to my interview with Rodney Young in advance of the conference:

The Big Shift towards Fundraising Analytics: a conversation with Joshua Birkholz

See you there!


IBM have announced a new product called Watson Analytics, one they claim will bring sophisticated big data analysis to the average business user. Watson Analytics is a cloud application that does all of the heavy lifting related to big data processing by retrieving the data, analysing…

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Ira Hirschfield writes:

Less than 1 percent. That’s the portion of overall foundation giving that went to leadership development between 1992 and 2011.

Foundations ask a great deal of the organizations we support—to strengthen community, meet urgent needs for services, solve complex environmental problems, influence public policy, and build and sustain movements for change. In short, we hope grantees will deliver transformational results for the people and places they serve. So it’s striking how seldom we back that up with funds to help organizations develop and strengthen the ability of their leaders to meet those high expectations.

People are not born with everything it takes to manage and motivate a team, build coalitions, and lead change—and are certainly not born knowing how to be good board members. These are skills that current and future leaders develop as they are doing actual work. Leaders who have the opportunity to reflect on their strategies and hone their skills make better choices, develop innovative solutions and forge stronger collaborations.

Read the rest here at SSIR

By Josh Birkholz

Every now and again I have the urge to play around with Google Trends. This was spurred again recently after reading the giving trends data in Giving USA (which by the way you should all include in your giving priorities. you can make a gift here).  I was struck by the decline in giving to international relief and development (declined by 16.1% since 2009, while overall giving was up by 12.3%).  Perhaps when the market is climbing, we forget about the poor. 

Interestingly, Google searches mirror this shift. I used the search terms “giving” and “poverty.”  Both topical areas changed over time consistent with the actual behaviors.


It is also to be noted that giving surpassed volunteering.  Volunteering is often strong in areas of direct support to the poor.  And, volunteering typically precedes giving in many service organizations.


It is a great honor for me to work along side so many great organizations fighting poverty on the front lines.  A personal goal is too see relief organizations adopt the models of transformational major gift development so prevalent in U.S. Higher Education.  Their cases are compelling and many organizations, such as World Vision and the Salvation Army, are equipped to make serious change for the lives of many children in poverty both here in the U.S. and abroad.

One thing is certain; we are able to take care of ourselves.  Shopping surpasses giving by a factor of five. We have our work cut out for us.


This paper is worth the read.  I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Shane Dikolli on a related research project.  As he’s described conducting this text analysis on CEO speech, I’ve been increasingly anxious to study the results.  Here is the abstract and link to the paper.


We forward and validate a linguistically derived measure of CEO integrity. We contend low-integrity CEOs use a dilution strategy when communicating, which manifests empirically as relatively excessive explanations in the annual shareholder letter. Using the extent of shareholder letter causation words to measure variation in explanations, we find low-integrity CEOs receive lower integrity ratings from subordinates, are perceived unfavorably by employees generally, more likely receive a “tone at the top” material weakness and a higher fee from their auditor, more likely receive backdated options, face a higher lawsuit likelihood and, prior to Sarbanes-Oxley, provide lower quality accruals.


Shane S. Dikolli
Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Thomas Keusch
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

William J. Mayew
Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Thomas D. Steffen
Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Link to the Paper


I haven’t been to a KDD since 2001 in San Francisco.  We’ve come so far as a profession.  I look forward to meeting new data scientist friends.  My colleagues Andy Schultz and Marisa Ontko will be with me.  

See you there!

This is worth checking out.  Very accessible explanation.

Markov chains, named after Andrey Markov, are mathematical systems that hop from one “state” (a situation or set of values) to another. For example, if you made a Markov chain model of a baby’s behavior, you might include “playing,” “eating”, “sleeping,” and “crying” as states, which together with other behaviors could form a ‘state space’: a list of all possible states. In addition, on top of the state space, a Markov chain tells you the probability of hopping, or “transitioning,” from one state to any other state—-e.g., the chance that a baby currently playing will fall asleep in the next five minutes without crying first.

Read the rest here and see the visualization - Did I say it has adjustment dials!?!

We still have a little room.  If you are around and want to stop by, please do.

BWF_social to Tour West Coast with FREE Online Fundraising Workshop


Hey best coast friends! We’d love to see you at our workshops in LA on 7/21, in San Fran on 7/22, or in Seattle on 7/23.

Workshop Details

2014 State of Fundraising Analytics Study.  See the full whitepaper here.

Special thanks to Morgan Zehner and Alison Roberts for their work on the study. For more information about BWF and our analytics services, visit our web site at

Justin is the Guru of Giving Days.  You should check out his stuff!


Seems like every week… shoot, almost every DAY now we’re hearing about another $1 million+ online fundraising campaign or giving day in higher education. From Arizona State to Boston University, these seven-figure giving days are becoming the norm rather than anomalies.

But how, right? What is it these schools are doing differently or better than other institutions who are having mixed results?

To get to the bottom of planning a successful giving day, we asked Washington and Lee’s Annual Giving Director, Skylar Beaver, what’s the secret sauce? By answering three short questions in the video below on W&L’s $1.4 million “Give Day” on April 24, Skylar provides an overview for how you might go about planning your giving day in 2015:

Click here to see the video