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Finding the hidden gems in your data file

Written By: Cam Shapansky on February 01, 2016

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?

Finding better answers from your data filesHow 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!

Topics: New Donor Onboarding, Acquisition, Data Analytics and Insights

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