Data is Fun! Introducing Hadi Minooei, Funraise's Chief Data Scientist

June 18, 2018
7 minutes

Hi Hadi! 

Muggsy here, with interview questions coming at you from the computer directly across from your desk! Pretty wild, huh? It's the marvel of technology, making its impact known. Speaking of which... You work pretty deeply with one of technology's building blocks: data. In fact, your title here at Funraise is Chief Data Scientist. Cool!

Muggsy: But, um... what does that mean? Like, what is data and how do you... science it?

Hadi: Anything that can be perceived by the 5+1 senses is called data. (ed: Apparently intuition/perception is referred to as the 6th sense!) There are two main categories of data: demographic data, which is age, gender, and income, for example, and biographic data, which shows information on personalities, like past behavior, skills, or experiences.

Because data comes in all kinds of formats—text, sounds, images, graphs—we "science it" by cleaning, summarizing, and analyzing the data. My job is to make data as easy as possible for humans to consume and then take it even further to have machines learn from it.

Muggsy: Ohhhh! Thanks for the explanation, Hadi! Now that you dropped that knowledge nugget, we should probably introduce you more officially.

Folks, please give a warm Funraise welcome to Hadi Minooei, our Chief Data Scientist, and a pretty cool guy! Hadi, what do you want to say to all the nonprofits out there? How'd you end up here at Funraise? What's your sign/favorite food/ideal way to spend free time?

Hadi: Hi everyone! I'm happy to be speaking to you today from Funraise, a company that I joined because of the awesome visionaries who see the great potential data science has to impact the nonprofit industry. Data science within the nonprofit space is all about leveraging your actions to make the donors' experience as easy and rewarding as possible.

And since you asked, I'm a Taurus as well as a sushi-loving Kaggle junkie. (ed: Kaggle's a competition for statisticians and data miners; who knew?) Reading tech news is also really exciting to me!

Muggsy: Huh. We had no idea that you're a Taurus. That explains a lot. ;)

Back to business, though. Funraise is really excited to have you on board—we believe that big data is going to do a lot for nonprofits. Can you share your vision of how your work will impact organizations with a mission?

Hadi: Well, this is Funraise's vision as well as my own! We want nonprofits to better understand their audiences so that they can approach current and future donors with the best messages, communication methods, timing, and frequency in order to maximize both donor experience and dollars donated. This also has the happy side effect of budgets and other resources being used more efficiently.

Muggsy: That's really interesting. And a vision that Funraise is excited to get behind! If they don't have their own Data Scientist, how can nonprofits use the data they have at their disposal: publicly-available reports, their own donor data, and donation history?

Hadi: You kind of said it already—nonprofits have a lot of data at their fingertips. They shouldn't be afraid to use it! But as a suggestion, nonprofits can access even more data through Funraise's third-party sources (APIs). Once they have the data, summarizing it and putting it into visuals like graphs can give nonprofits solid direction on how best to approach specific donors so they can hit their goals.

Regarding accessing data, there's one thing I want to make clear: Funraise is very focused on privacy. Our customers and their supporters are the most important part of this company, and we will never compromise their security. We take their privacy very seriously and always put it first when dealing with or presenting data.

Muggsy: Hadi, you're making us want to dive into some data of our own. But seriously, we heard that you're powering one of our Funding Awesome grants, a $10,000 Donor Analysis. Thank you! Can you explain what the recipient of this grant will get?

(We know it'll be awesomely useful to any nonprofit, but we want to make sure everyone reading gets that, too.)

Hadi: I'm very happy to be able to offer my services to a deserving nonprofit through Funraise. While the award will vary a bit depending on which organization is chosen, the plan is to evaluate the organization's donor demographic and behavioral data to look for patterns. That gives us information to round out personas to whom the org can create very direct fundraising appeals and focused marketing campaigns. We'll use Funraise's broad base of industry knowledge to identify low-hanging fruit so you can make the most of your resources and maximize donations. As part of this research, we'll run wealth screenings on your entire donor database.

Here's an example of what the grant recipient may discover: They may see that sending email requests for donations on Tuesdays typically yields best results in 2 business days, whereas asking on Thursdays results in higher donations in the first 6 hours.

We can also identify patterns for giving that show the correlation between behavioral data and demographic data. Maybe the best day of the month to ask for donations falls in line with bi-weekly paychecks. Maybe certain donor segments are more generous around their birthdays. These are all cool things to learn and great info for nonprofits to work with.

Muggsy: Wow, what an amazing grant! You make data science sound fun, Hadi. What would you say to another interview, where we can really get to the heart of data, machine learning, and lots of fun?

Hadi: I'd love to. You're welcome in my data lab anytime.

You heard it here, folks! All about data with Hadi Minooei, Funraise's Chief Data Scientist!

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