David Frum

03.27.12

The Rich Are Getting Facebook Stalked

Mark Zuckerberg did warn us that the concept of privacy has become obsolete. Fuse that grim fact of modern life with the concentration of wealth at the very top and you get this:

[New York City private schools] are mining online data for details about parents’ homes, luxury cars, private planes, stock holdings and donations to other charities. So-called development offices, once the domain of part-time administrators and school volunteers, have been elevated along with the titles of those running them, who are now known as chief advancement officers, directors of philanthropy and heads of strategic initiatives. Heads of school report spending much of their time in search of money, according to surveys.

The biggest change is the sophistication of the data available, and how schools can use it. Before a campaign begins, consultants interview 40 to 50 of the school’s top prospects to determine their level of interest in a campaign and how much they might give (a “feasibility study”). The consultants also try to measure a school’s philanthropic capacity (a “capacity analysis”).

“It’s not just that we know how to ask for money, but we can figure out more precisely what you can reasonably expect to raise,” said Daniel Boyer, director of client relations and a senior consultant at Marts & Lundy, a consulting firm with a large private school practice.

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