Good Fundraising Data Can Enable You to Have the Best Year Ever

Fundraising Data Planning

The turn of the calendar page to June is a sure harbinger of warmer days ahead, and, as summer approaches, a development officer’s mind often turns to planning.

Today, a clear understanding of your fundraising data is the foundation for sound development planning.  Are you and your colleagues and—most importantly—the board of your agency looking at the right information, measuring the right outcomes?

Analyzing and reporting fundraising metrics is great, if they are the right measures.  And, if you don’t have organized fundraising data to start with you are setting yourself up for disaster.  Here are three impediments that I have encountered that prevent good analysis and planning.

1. Your data is spread across many different databases so that you have no consistent method for aggregating data.

Your organization stores donation data in multiple, siloed databases.  Siloed is the key word here. What holds you back from becoming data-driven is that all your disparate systems cannot communicate with one another.

What if you want to perform a “recapture campaign,” a series of targeted appeals to recently lapsed donors to reactivate them?  If all your data lives together in one system, you can easily identify the lapsed donors you want to target. But if you keep your donor data in separate systems, say by department or gift type, you’ll have to spend valuable time aggregating all your spreadsheets, cleaning your data, and developing a new set of unique donor IDs. That’s time that could be spent elsewhere, and it introduces plenty of opportunities for error.

2. There is no clear champion for fundraising data management.

Having access to data is one thing, but having someone who is dedicated to mining that information for insights and benefit to the organization is another. Without one person taking ownership of data analysis, this essential work never gets done.

3. Fundraising Data is not valued

The third—and single most important—hurdle to data-driven fundraising success is a lack of “data respect” among professional and volunteer leadership. When leadership is so focused on the bottom line, they neglect or misunderstand the significance of data analysis.

Some board members view fundraising metrics, trend spotting, and data-driven fundraising as a distraction from traditional development activities. Thus, when a board meeting comes around, and a director of development attempts to share their good news regarding an increase in donor lifetime value or an uptick in donor reactivation and retention, they are chided rather than lauded.  The singular focus on how much money was contributed this year is important.  More important, however, is understanding the impact of the year’s development plan and programs on donor lifetime value as well as

  • acquisition of first time donors
  • increase or reduction of lapsed donors
  • retention of last year’s contributors
  • reactivation of former donors
  • increase or decrease in amount given by each donor and the list as a whole

The bottom-line culture of most nonprofits is not conducive to thinking strategically with data-driven decision making. Instead, bad numbers are swept “under the rug,” and the realities of critical fundraising data are ignored.

Are you ready to be more data driven?  Email me at David A. Mersky or call me at (800)361-8689 and I will help you analyze your development data at no cost to you or your organization.  Then, this summer you can create a donor engagement plan that will enable you to break all fundraising records for your organization.