Posiba's landscape analysis product shows where and how funding is allocated.
Posiba’s landscape analysis product shows where and how funding is allocated.

A San Diego startup is bringing sophisticated data analysis to the non-profit world, helping both givers and charities make better use of limited resources. Posiba gathers information from thousands of sources to deliver powerful “big data” insights in a simple, useful form for foundations, nonprofits, philanthropists and government agencies. Times of San Diego spoke with Elizabeth Dreicer, co-founder and CEO, about the two-year-old company’s mission.

Why did you start Posiba?

Posiba was created as a joint effort between us and Kathlyn Mead, who was then at The California Endowment and is now chief executive officer of The San Diego Foundation. With years of experience on foundation and nonprofit boards, we saw a crucial need for more information to better guide our work. So we looked around for a data and analytics solution that would help us measure the impact we were having and learn how to increase it. One thing we especially wanted was a way to see across charitable ecosystems made up of lots of different funders and nonprofits to understand and share what works. That was pretty far from the typical business intelligence dashboard. Because we couldn’t find what we needed in the marketplace, we decided to collaborate on building a solution specifically for the charitable sector. The result is Posiba—an affordable subscription-based web service. It empowers people and organizations working for public good to accomplish more by helping them know more.

Elizabeth Dreicer
Elizabeth Dreicer

How can philanthropists and charities use Posiba’s tools?

Well, the first thing I would say is that everyone working in the charitable sector can use it. You don’t have to know anything about big data or analytics—just that you want insights. Think of Posiba as an information utility, managing all the complexities involved in delivering a service that’s simple and useful. Posiba gathers data from thousands of sources—public, private and crowdsourced. We organize and curate it in a thoughtful way to deliver insights to users across charitable ecosystems. From an easy browser interface, you can explore this data, and compare or combine it with your own organizational data. You can readily create widgets that present metrics in ways that are useful to your organization. You can also reach out to other members of your ecosystem for specific data, track requests and responses, and upload data you want to share with them.

Who are some of your clients in the San Diego non-profit community?

Our customers include large and small foundations, government, NGOs and nonprofits—this is a very big market that has historically been underserved. Locally, we launched the first release of INSIGHT San Diego in late July with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Equinox Center and Center for Policy Initiatives with sponsorship by The San Diego Foundation. INSIGHT San Diego is a collaborative developing a regional report card on key indicators. This first release shows how San Diego scores on environmental, economy and equity metrics compared to other regions. Future releases will include additional indicator scores, driven by new partners joining the initiative. Notably, this collaborative is important as it fuses organizations that often hold differing points of view; however, by sharing data, they are more readily able to see additional and varied perspectives that enrich their and their stakeholders’ understanding, in support of shared goals for improving the quality of life in San Diego.

This example is part of a wave of regional indicators projects emerging all over the world. We are delighted to be helping our home region which is serving as a prototype to make it easy for communities to launch these initiatives elsewhere.

Is the charitable sector lagging compared to the for-profit sector in terms of information and analytics?

Yes, the sector has been behind—yet is poised to make up the difference quickly. This is the perfect moment because today we have what I call “the telescope.” By that I mean, big data analytics technologies have been built (the telescope) in large part supported by other sectors—financial services, cyber, etc.—and are ready for use by the charitable sector (the astronomer). This sector can leverage these technologies (and Posiba does) to illuminate the vast charitable landscapes, focusing way in and way out to get the insights we need. It wasn’t possible before to deliver such insights in a timely, affordable way for organizations and philanthropists of all sizes. Now it is, and once people working in the charitable sector see what big data can do for them, they love it.

With tools like Posiba’s are we on the verge of a revolution in the social sector?

I think we are, because with the ability to know more, we can do more while increasing confidence on two levels. For example, put yourself in the position of a nonprofit working to improve the outcomes of kids’ education. If you can see that students who get certain kinds of help outperform others, the you can add those program features. The biggest beneficiaries will be the people and causes. This said, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of confidence. When people working in the charitable sector—foundations, governments, NGOs, nonprofits and individuals—can measure the impact they’re having and know how to increase it, they’ll have greater confidence that they’re making better decisions, including expanding or contracting programs and funding. We’ll all be bolder about trying innovative approaches because we’ll be able to measure results. Also, increased clarity and accountability within the sector increases the confidence of donors. I think we’ll see growth in the streams and direction of monies flowing into the charitable sector as funders and donors are better able to see the returns on their investments in the social good.

Times of San Diego, a startup itself, regularly writes about startups in technology, biotech and other sectors of local business. If you are a startup in the San Diego area and want to tell your story, please contact news@timesofsandiego.com.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.