Meet Our Data Nerds: VolunteerMatch on Using Data to Do Good

At its core, VolunteerMatch connects good people with good causes. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement. In fact, the service welcomes millions of visitors a year and more than 98,000 nonprofit organizations. According to this week’s data nerd Greg Baldwin, president at VolunteerMatch:

“Data is the only tool we have to distinguish wishful thinking from real results–so the more data the better.”

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With that mindset driving the company since 1998, VolunteerMatch has become the preferred Internet recruiting tool for non-profit organizations–and the future possibilities seem endless. Hear more from Greg himself in the Q&A below:

Q. Your data nerd line is, “Data helps great causes find the volunteers they need.” Can you elaborate on that?

In 1998 I was sitting in my bedroom in Boston imagining how to use the power of technology to make it easier to make a difference and VolunteerMatch.org was born. Today VolunteerMatch helps 100,000 great causes find the volunteers they need every day, and we rely on good data to keep the service running. Data helps us troubleshoot problems, improve performance, and work better together as a team so that we can help more people find their opportunity to make a difference.

Q. How does your company tackle data organizationally?

We love data and are lucky to have lots of it. We’ve been keeping track of registered users, nonprofits, opportunities, transactions, visits, visitors, page views, and social value since from the beginning. We’ve used that data to paint a picture of the future we imagine, then use real data to keep track of how well we are doing.

Data is a shared resource but most of the good stuff is the product of our in-house engineering team. They are responsible for the technology infrastructure that gives all of us access to the data we need. New Relic is a great example. While our talented engineering team was responsible for deploying the service they are just one of the groups who use it to better serve our users. Our Client Services team uses it to troubleshoot user issues, our Sales team uses it demonstrate our reliability and uptime, and I use it to better understand the investments we’ll need to make to overcome the barriers of growth, scalability, and performance.

Q. What kind of “aha” moments have you had analyzing your data?

One came about two years ago when I realized that the constraints of our co-location environment were holding us back. Our CTO used New Relic to show me where the system was breaking down and the bottlenecks in our application stack. For the first time I could see the flaky servers and the actual CPU load on the database. I was able to stop extrapolating application performance from the experience in our office and start looking at data across the whole network.

Q. How have you used those discoveries to improve your business?

VolunteerMatch is a nonprofit, but I like to think we are in the service industry. We support 100,000 nonprofits, 30,000 interested volunteers a day, and 150 business partners. They all care about service, reliability, and speed. The insights from my “aha” moment made it very clear that our future depended on getting out of our rack at the co-location site and moving our entire service into the cloud. It took us more than a year and we used New Relic throughout the process to establish benchmarks we used to test the performance and reliability of our new cloud environment. We couldn’t have done that without the performance data we get from New Relic and I’m pleased to say that today VolunteerMatch is “unracked,” in the cloud, and ready to serve for many years to come.

Q. Looking ahead, how do you see data changing the world?

I believe you can’t manage what you can’t measure. One of the biggest challenges in tackling the world’s problems is figuring out how to measure progress. With better data comes the promise of better measurement and a whole new set of possibilities for innovation, investment and scale. Data is the only tool we have to distinguish wishful thinking from real results–so the more data the better.

What makes you a data nerd? Tell us–just tweet using the #datanerd hashtag. After all, we are all data nerds.

Morgan Flatley is on the customer marketing team at New Relic. Before making the New Relic marketing team her home, she dabbled in PR for startup tech companies. View posts by .

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