4 Ways Fundraisers Can Be Successful Using Data Analysis

I've seen all manner of change in technology as it relates to fundraising. From the advent of email solicitations to the use of social media to connect around a cause, fundraising professionals have always adapted to the changing technology around them. We now use data to analyze our results and trends and to forecast our future success.

In Klaus Schwab’s book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, he reminds us that technology empowers people rather than replaces them. In the age of data analysis, this is wholeheartedly accurate. Advancement, higher education institutions, and other non-profit organizations can use technology to aggregate massive amounts of data and find new ways to enrich relationships with students, donors, alumni, and friends.

Do all fundraisers have to be data analysts?

We don’t all have to be data scientists. However, all of us – from major gift officers to annual fund, marketing specialists to managers setting the strategic direction – do need a working knowledge of data, how to analyze it, and how to take actionable steps based on the insights gleaned from analysis.  It is no longer the responsibility of Advancement Services and Annual Giving to understand and utilize data – everyone can benefit from getting comfortable with data to help set strategy.

What stands in the way of using data analytics in our fundraising work?

The most commonly cited reason is time. In the press of the day to day, it’s hard to find the time to focus on analytics and strategy. Often medium and small organizations lack staff resources to keep up with the data analytic needs. Missing or incomplete data can be frustrating when trying to connect with prospects. Also cited is a lack of understanding of what to look for and how to set strategy against the analytic findings.

How to create a data-first organization

  1. Conduct a data audit. Conduct a biannual audit of the known data to determine its quality. What percentage of constituents can be reached via various marketing channels – email, mail, phone, social media? What is known about business information? What percentage of the data is updated annually, quarterly? What percentage of mail is being returned regularly? What percentage of email bounces back?
  2. Enrich your data. You can outsource for cell, landline, and email appends. The National Change of Address (NCOA) is a good resource and you can outsource for additional data fields that will help you identify your best prospects.
  3. Embrace analytics. Analyze giving trends regarding donors and dollars. As you explore the data, these are some of the questions to consider:
  • Who has remained loyal? Who has lapsed? What are the trends around your leadership donors?
  • Who is upgrading and downgrading?
  • What are the giving trends with reunions, young alumni, and senior gift?
  • What does your donor retention look like?
  • What are the sources of your gifts and who is using those channels?
  • Who is giving more than one gift a year and are you stewarding those donors well?
  • What are your trends in engagement?
  • What events are alumni attending and what do you know about the attendees?
  1. Embrace predictive analytics. If you want to take your analysis to the next level, I recommend outsourcing to gain further insights about strategy from both your data and third-party data. This will enrich what you know about your constituents and help you position your organization for future success. Predictive models can illustrate who is ready to give, at what level, what marketing channels to use, and where to hold future events.

Setting strategy using analytics is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The investment you make in data and analytics will pay off in terms of targeted communication to the right constituents about the things they care about, which will help them engage in your cause and inspire them to give.


View our workbook: Develop a Road Map for Fundraising