Using Data to Drive DonationsIn 2013, charitable giving grew 4.9%—the largest increase since the 2008 recession. 88% of households gave to charity, and 60% of millennials gave an average of $481. That’s part of the story told by the data collected by Blackbaud.

Are you listening to and interpreting your data? What is your data telling you?

Most successful fundraising strategies leverage data to support acquisition, renewal, and reactivation programs—data in the form of list buys, transactions, and ask amounts. Still, many non-profits struggle to harness the full potential of data-driven fundraising to optimize net revenue and connect with donors on a more personalized basis.

While most non-profits utilize CRM systems to manage constituent transactions, many fall short of revealing the story within that data. Further, unless fundraisers also look at joining other data sources, like household, consumer, behavioral, and special interest data, along with interaction with other non-profits, the story is left incomplete.

When data sources are pulled together, and analytics applied, more insight can be revealed about the donor including:

Optimal appeal cadence— does the donor respond throughout the year or just at end of year?

  • Preferred transaction method— online or offline, check or credit card
  • Responsiveness to “crisis” appeals
  • Whether the donor is a user of mobile technology
  • Online or offline preference for communications
  • Which donors to target for upgrades
  • Responsiveness to mission or premium appeals
  • Whom to target for planned giving

Smart use of analytics and modeling helps us choose with whom, when, and how to communicate. The next challenge is in extending the “what.” How do we then interpret the data to communicate better – be more relevant in the eyes of the donors?

Digital technologies allow us to use the data for highly personalized one-to-one communications. A few examples of data-driven communications include:

  • Digital print that utilizes locale to personalize images for a more local sense of support
  • Appeals that prominently drive donors of high online propensity to personalized microsites with rich-media content based on identified interests and affinity with the cause
  • Veterans programs that feature highlights of officers from branches of service similar to the donor, or animal welfare appeals that feature more dogs or cats based on donors’ pet ownership
  • Tailored copy that speaks to the audience in segments, such as gender, age group, ethnicity, and even geography

Once you understand the data available—beyond lists and transactions— the opportunities for optimization and personalization become almost endless. Yet, the gap between having access to the data and putting it to work can often be difficult to bridge alone. Challenges such as collecting and storing the data, technology tools to analyze the data, and lack of expertise on staff are enough to put transformational use of data seemingly just out of reach. However, even small, incremental adoption of data-driven fundraising techniques can yield big results in donation appeals.

Terms like modeling, analytics, and big data sound like mantra for large marketing organizations. However, data-centric marketing service providers leading with digital and one-to-one strategies can help apply analytics and predictive models to rate best prospects, trim chronic non-responders, re-invest in alternate acquisition programs, and communicate with relevance for big increases in return on fundraising investment.

Data on its own is simply words and numbers. In itself, it has no intrinsic meaning. Smart application of data, through analytics, predictive modeling, and one-to-one personalization, however, will turn that data into donations with the greatest return.

 Matt Graham is Innovairre’s Chief Technology Officer, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about successful data strategies, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com