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Finding the Hidden Gems in Your Data File

If you’re like most organizations, you work really hard at communicating your cause to the outside world. Your …

If you’re like most organizations, you work really hard at communicating your cause to the outside world. Your work is impactful and you see the difference it’s making every day. You know there are pockets within your donor file that are doing really well, but could they be doing even better? Are you aware of other fundraising opportunities or are they simply being missed?

How can you know for certain? Here’s how.

Your history as an organization has established a rich set of clues that are often buried in the columns and rows of your databases and often, unintentionally, ignored.

You know who your donors are, you know when they give, how often they give, how much they give, and what they give to. You also know where they live, and how long they’ve been connected to your organization. It may not all be perfect and there will undoubtedly be holes, but by understanding what you do know, you can develop a plan to improve your program and improve how you use your data to connect more closely with your donors.

 Your data can uncover truths and clues that will help you focus your fundraising program on areas where the biggest opportunities lie, and also help you work to repair the areas that aren’t working as they should.

Armed with a better analysis of your data, keep in mind key questions such as:

  • What portions of your file (mega, major, mid, mass) are responding best?
  • Where have you seen recent success?
  • Where are the weaknesses in your program?
  • What is your case for support and how does it scale up and down?
  • How often are you touching donors?
  • How effectively are you segmenting donors?
  • Are you providing donors with relevant and meaningful information or simply spraying the same messages out to everyone?
  • How does your face-to-face and phone work integrate with mail and electronic marketing?
  • Are you challenged with activation or retention?

Our starting point with all our clients is to do a deep dive into their donor data to answer these and other questions so we can uncover the barriers and opportunities buried within. Sometimes the outcome is a significant restructure that impacts the annual giving program as a whole, but more often, it’s about identifying a few small changes that can have great impact.

I’m seeing a furious race to the bottom in the industry now — organizations are paying more to acquire donors, and they’re bringing in donors at a lower dollar value than the competition, but this may simply attract donors who are not genuinely engaged in your cause.

Times are challenging. But the answer is not to race after a watered-down version of what used to work.

The answer is to place a magnifying glass over your donor data and look for clues. What makes your donors tick? What is working? How, when and why do they like to give? What segments and affinities exist? With answers to questions like these, you can create a program that doesn’t undercut the competition but instead builds on the strong assets you’ve invested in and built over the years.

Happy hunting!


Read more 02/01/2016

Take some cues from a ketchup bottle

I’m fresh out of the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Congress in Toronto and my biggest takeaway is …

I’m fresh out of the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Congress in Toronto and my biggest takeaway is ketchup.

Both keynote speakers (Dan Pallotta, author, entrepreneur, and owner of Boston-based Advertising for Humanity) and Ron Tite (CEO of The Tite Group, a Toronto agency specializing in branding and content marketing) went to great lengths to talk about it. That, and I love ketchup – I’ve always said French fries are really just ketchup holders.

Here’s how Dan and Ron’s stories went. . .

 The next time you pick up a ketchup bottle, take a good look at it.

Remember when ketchup came in glass bottles? You had to shake the bottle, hard. The ketchup flew out in globs and spattered your hot dog and your shirt. When the bottle was nearly empty, you had to stick a knife inside to scoop out the remaining ketchup.

Not good.

Then someone had a bright idea: What about a plastic, squeezable ketchup container? It could sit on its cap, collecting the ketchup at the bottom, so you never had to shake. It could have a small opening that prevented messy globs.

It was a brilliant redesign – and it all came out of looking at the consumer pain points and rethinking a product accordingly.

As fundraisers and nonprofits, we can learn a lot from this. We can rethink what we do, based on our donors’ pain points. We can change what we’re doing so we give our donors a better experience. We can boldly go beyond the “glass bottle.”

Dan and Ron told the AFP audience: Don’t assume the way you’ve always done it is the only way to do it. Go to where your donors are – get to know them, and their expectations and frustrations.

I was encouraged to see how their thinking aligns with what we’re doing at Blue North.

We use tools like data intelligence, predictive modelling and trends analysis to help our clients find out what their donors really want. We help our clients re-examine their giving offers and programs. Our goal is to help our clients give their donors an immersive, life-giving experience, one that compels them to give in return.

That ketchup bottle reminds us: It’s time to stop doing what’s not working.

It’s time to find out what our donors are looking for – and start doing that instead.


Read more 12/02/2015


Non-profit organizations tend to put donors into three “buckets” — Mass, Middle, and Major. Are you paying equal …

Non-profit organizations tend to put donors into three “buckets” — Mass, Middle, and Major. Are you paying equal attention to all three?

Middle donors tend to be the ones who are overlooked, although lately they’re getting more attention in the fundraising industry.

Blue North has lots of experience with Middle donors — in fact, it’s where we got our start. Here’s my advice for showing some love to these committed givers:

Give them the keys. Let your Middle donors drive the relationship with your organization.

What do I mean by that?

I mean you need to listen to your Middle donors closely. Find out what matters to them. Gather qualitative and quantitative insights, and use these to deepen your donor relationships.

Listen to them.

Your Middle donors are an incredible resource. If your representatives are in contact with them by phone, you have a tremendous opportunity to listen to these donors. What are they passionate about? Why do they support your organization? What do they want to hear more about? How else do they want to get involved?

Look at their data.

Look closely at your Middle donor data to gather more information. Find out:
> What programs your Middle donors give to.
> When they give — their preferred time of year.
> How they want you to communicate with them.
> Anything else that sets this group of givers apart from the rest.

Now, bring it all together.

Connect the quantitative data with the qualitative data captured by your reps. Look for natural giving patterns. Then, meet the passion of your Middle donors with personalized communications and giving opportunities.

For example, maybe you find out your Middle donors tend to give big gifts at the end of the year. Why not create an annual renewable request for a specific program, and send this out to them every November?

Give your Middle donors — the overlooked ones — the keys. You won’t regret it.

If you’d like to explore this further, ask about our comprehensive Middle donor training program for your representatives.


Read more 10/19/2015


Guest Post by Pete Ward, Senior Director, Client Insights
A few years ago, I saw a highly entertaining movie …

Guest Post by Pete Ward, Senior Director, Client Insights

 A few years ago, I saw a highly entertaining movie called Moneyball – the story of how the Oakland A’s assembled a competitive baseball team on a lean budget by using insights gleaned from data. Their one insight was to recruit undervalued players with a high on-base percentage — key to winning games.

Apart from it being a great story, what I liked is how this simple insight upended long-held, once unassailable assumptions of what it took to win. And while many felt analytics had no place in baseball — with its storied history and traditions – the data helped create a better team and a better game, thrilling the A’s fans.

Beyond baseball, we’re seeing how “big data” is changing the nature of retailing, banking, telecommunications, and more. For example, a 93-year-old retailing institution in Canada — with its own storied traditions — is thriving in a highly competitive retail landscape by embracing data, coupled with technology. Its customers are defining what’s of value and driving its retail strategy.

I see the same opportunities for non-profits, believing data analytics opens up new possibilities for our clients — by revealing insights about what their donors find meaningful, and building long-term commitment that creates sustainable revenue growth.

At bottom, an organization’s compelling vision to change the world for good, along with inspiring stories and creative fundraising programs, are what motivate donors to get involved. It’s the data insight that helps us understand what is delivering the right outcome and why.

As the pace of change increases, I’m committed to assisting our clients be agile — quickly developing and measuring the value of their new ideas. And I’m committed to providing insights that are more predictive than descriptive; more actionable than idly “interesting.”

I’m truly excited to be part of the Blue North team, and look forward to rolling up my sleeves with our clients to help them achieve their world-changing goals.

Read more 09/17/2015
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