SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Silk Road Rising

  • Posted Feb 26, 2016

In response to 9/11, playwright and cross-cultural expert Jamil Khoury and producer and businessman Malik Gillani founded Silk Road Rising. This Chicago-based theater company “tells stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses, advancing a polycultural worldview.”

The Challenge

“Silk Road Rising did not have access to analytics,” said Founding Executive Director Malik Gillani. “Analysis requires the ability to compare and contrast data, but we only had our own internal information. Chicago has a great community of leaders and art makers who share ideas and information, but none of us had a tool that would allow us to access and compare historical or standardized data sets. In group meetings, I’d hear people say ‘we don’t spend a lot on our website’ or ‘we collect a lot of donations online.’ But, I wondered, what is ‘a lot’ or ‘a little?’”

How DataArts Helps

Silk Road Rising began using DataArts’s analytic reports to make the case for support internally to its board and externally to funders. Using DataArt’s data, Gillani was able to compare the level of return on his investment in online fundraising to that of other local organizations. This analysis confirmed that his organization’s strategy was paying off: Gillani determined that while his organizational spending on information technology activities was high versus his peers’, Silk Road’s return in online contributions was exponentially higher as well. The comparative data helped Gillani make evidence-based choices on how to allocate resources, and led Gillani to develop a new fundraising strategy to target individual donors on the web.

DataArts, in a Word

Transparency. In past grant reviews, a program officer would say, “Your expenses are much higher than other groups your size.” I never knew why. CDP’s transparency helps me compare Silk Road to other groups, determine how we are doing, and calculate the percentage difference. This capability positively impacts our decision-making. Today, I’m using CDP data to make the strongest case possible for funding and support.”

Read the full case study.