JCA Turns 30! Part 3: A Brief History by CEO Steve Jacobson

October 08, 2018

As JCA celebrates its 30th Birthday, Steve Jacobson is giving us a recount of the history of JCA and nonprofit technology. Read part 1 and part 2 here. This is the third (and final) installment…


As I look back over the past 30 years, I’ve seen such tremendous change in the way we approach fundraising, membership, ticketing, and admissions. Back when JCA first started, it was enough to do a quality data conversion and some software training. We then realized that it was also important to make a nonprofit’s operations more efficient and effective by implementing best practices. No, checks shouldn’t sit in someone’s drawer until you figured out how the gift should be coded in the system. And, no, it’s not OK to take more than 48 hours to acknowledge a gift. Yes, it is OK to price a theatre ticket in line with its true value, while still maintaining accessibility.

While the fight to extend best practices to all nonprofits still rages on, we have reached the next level in the data “wars.” It’s not enough to have clean data; you need to leverage that data to make informed decisions. The standard reports we had all been using give us a great view in the rearview mirror. But it’s not about where you’ve been; it’s about where you need to go.

Over the last 10 years, we have been part of this data revolution. We have built industry-leading business intelligence software. We’ve worked with our UK-based partner, Baker Richards, to build the best pricing software specifically geared for the arts. We have built predictive models to identify the next generation of members. We have worked with our forward-thinking clients to find ways to more effectively target donors and ticket buyers using data-driven decisions and tools.


As I look forward to the next 10 years, it would be easy to say that the winners and losers in our sector will be determined by how well they collect and leverage data. But, in the end, data is just a tool to help identify opportunities. It will still be up to fundraisers, marketers, and nonprofit leadership to build personal relationships and foster affinity for their nonprofits.

I’ll see you back here on these pages in 2028 to see if I’ve gotten that right!