“Fundraising data.” For many non-profit fundraisers, the phrase conjures up feelings of boredom and dread. Hours sitting in front of a donor database entering names and gift amounts… days wasted creating charts and graphs for an upcoming board meeting.
What if I told you that instead of boredom, the fundraising data that you are collecting could be the ticket to raising 10%, 20%, or 50% more for your non-profit this year? What if the secrets lurking in your database allowed your team to raise more money without spending more money or more time to do so?
The truth is that your fundraising data can help you make better decisions about fundraising, which will lead to more money for your organization. Here’s how…
The Three Types of Fundraising Data – And How to Use Them
In general, there are three types of fundraising data can and should be collecting.
The first is basic information. This includes donor names, addresses, and contact information, along with gift dates and amounts and other basic donor data. Your non-profit can use this information for basic fundraising planning purposes, such as seeing when donors lapse or when donors are ready to be asked for their next gift.
The second type of fundraising data is strategic data. This includes the information you are collecting on which strategies and messages work for your non-profit. For example, you’re learning whether or not fundraising events appeal to your donors, and if so, which types of events work best. Likewise, you’re learning which types of projects and programs are easy to fund, and which are not. Your non-profit can use this information to develop its fundraising plans and guide its strategic decisions.
The third type of data you are collecting is quantitative data. This includes all of the “testable” fundraising information you are testing. For example, you may learn which days of the week work best for your fundraising calls, or which e-mail subject lines people are responding to.
Likewise, you may find that some of the ask language in your direct mail letters works better than others, or that your event invitations raise 20% more when they are mailed in bright yellow envelopes. Your non-profit can use this information to replicate results later on that result in more money raised for the organization.
The Fundraising Learning Cycle
If the information above seems confusing, don’t get bogged down in the details. The important thing to remember is that as non-profits, we can and should be trying new things and seeing what works. Smart fundraisers know there’s a lifecycle to fundraising process that goes like this:
Test… Implement… Repeat…
For everything your non-profit does, test the results to see what is working, and what is not. Test things at the strategic level (what strategies are working best for our non-profit?) And test things on the quantitative level (which e-mails do people open? What type of annual appeal letters get the best results?)
Remember that every non-profit is different. Things that work for another non-profit won’t necessarily work for yours (and vice versa).
Once you figure out something that is working, implement it – meaning, use it! If you find out, through testing, that you get the best results by sending out your e-mail fundraising appeals on Tuesdays at 10 AM, then send out your appeals at that time every month.
Likewise, if you find that spending 20 hours per month on major donor outreach is producing better results for your organization than the 20 hours per month you used to spend on planning fundraising events, then consider scrapping some of your events and dedicating that time to donor outreach. One of the most important things to remember in using your data effectively is that just because something has “always been done” doesn’t mean that you should continue doing it…
Finally, once you successfully implement what you have learned, it’s time to test new tweaks to your strategy. For example, once you start sending out your e-mail fundraising appeals on Tuesdays at 10 AM, start looking at which subject lines get the best open rates. Test lots of subject line ideas, find the best templates, implement them… and then test something else.
The fundraising learning cycle never ends. Your non-profit can and should be constantly evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and testing results to raise more money each year.
Plan to Use Fundraising Data for Better Results this Year!
Does your non-profit keep good records on which strategies and tactics are working? Are you testing new things to see what works, and implementing what you have learned? Are you willing to throw out old strategies is they aren’t working as well as new ideas? If not, make a plan to effectively us fundraising data to increase your fundraising revenue this year.
Photo Credit: Kami