Targeting Our Direction

Synthesizing our research into key insights led us to our narrowed problem space, which we defined through a targeted “How Might We” question...

How might we more effectively capture, assess, and utilize donor information, so that TPF is equipped to simultaneously further the personalization of their donor services and the matching of donors to pressing community needs?


Our proposed solution is an internal tool which will slot into TPF’s impressive backend database ecosystem, providing new avenues for utilizing the many data points in their systems and for capturing new qualitative details.

The system we create, primarily designed for Donor Services Officers, has three main goals...


Cultivate nuanced donor data


in order to better predict and direct donor interest levels, engagement levels, and giving habits.

Strengthen donors' trust in TPF


through referencing the curated data to further personalize important conversations around philanthropy.

Match donors to community needs

providing an efficient framework to pair donors with the pressing community needs that foundation direct ed giving cannot support.


The sheer volume and diversity of donors, their needs, their interests, and their experiences, requires a new sophisticated behind-the-scenes tool to capture, assess, and utilize those data points, so that TPF can focus less on menial data management, and more on the personal services that donors cherish.

The many donors at TPF differ so much, from surface-level differences in fund types to more personal details and demographics. But one common aspect to almost all TPF donors is their appreciation for the one-on-one communication with their DSOs. They rely on their DSOs for philanthropic expertise and guidance, but also value the personal relationship and trust built from years of intimate conversations.

Because donors’ needs and desires for philanthropy vary so widely, and furthermore, because many TPF donors are older and technologically-averse, our team decided designing an internal TPF tool would be most impactful, as opposed to a donor-facing experience.

In addition to automating routine tasks and freeing up valuable time, we see our tool ensuring scalability, setting TPF up for success for decades to come as their donors and, inevitably, their Donor Services Officers change over the years.

While the DSOs will always know their donors best, in terms of whether recommendations for specific grants, events, or TPF engagements will be appropriate for their donor, there is an opportunity for technology to do the heavy lifting, quickly curating relevant data for DSOs to make more timely, informed decisions.

Looking forward

Looking ahead, we also envision a phase 2 of our project, where the same infrastructure could be leveraged into a donor facing tool, so hands-on, technologically-savvy donors have the option of entering their relevant information, including preferences, interests, availability, and more.

While the majority of TPF’s current donors may not see value in such an online tool, our research suggests that the next wave of millennial donors will. Alongside our internal tool, we plan to prototype and test how a donor-facing version would work among younger donors.

This, again, touches on the note of ensuring scalability, setting TPF up for success with the next wave of donors and envisioning a future of co-creation, where donors can take matters into their own hands, becoming more invested in their philanthropy and lifting some of the workload off TPF.

Finally, a highly exciting aspect to this design project is the potential to share our insights and designs with community foundations across the country.

While our internal tool’s implementation will focus on The Pittsburgh Foundation’s specific complexities, we foresee the strategic, human-centered technological processes we design applying to generalizable challenges that all community foundations encounter behind-the-scenes.

It’s beyond inspiring to realize that our work has the potential to impact responsible philanthropy at a national scale, securing more charitable dollars for those who need it the most.

One way to view the future that we envision is through the use of a model based on McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Growth. In Horizon 1, the near term, our direction promises an internal tool to support TPF’s core operations. In Horizon 2, the long term, our direction encourages the use of a donor-facing version of the internal tool to build upon and TPF practices. Finally, in Horizon 3, the longer term, our direction promotes the expansion of this tool such that it can be shared with other community foundations.