How Your Data Can Cut Off Your Fundraising Revenue at the Knees

Here’s a post by my colleague Dr. Kathryn Gamble, our data expert:

Are you walking away from future fundraising revenue?  

Try this test.

  • Can you easily pull a list of individual donors who have given year to date including amount, date, type of gift, source, and purpose?
  • Can you do the same for corporate and foundation donors?

How about donors to a particular project or interest area?

  • Can you tell which of your donors gave through donor advised funds?

What about your annual fund reporting?

  • Can you report out the results of your last direct mail? How many you solicited? How many responded and how much they gave?
  • Can you calculate your donor retention and attrition rates?

In the major gifts arena:

  • Can you report the number of contacts with major donor prospects?
  • Do you know the value of your major gift solicitations and their yields?
  • Can you pull a list of donors from your last campaign?

If you answered no to even two of these questions, you are seriously holding back your fundraising.

Why? Fundraising – good fundraising – is information-driven.  Especially today.

How you manage your data can have a big impact on your fundraising results. Analytics are becoming more and more important.

Our experience – a story:

Last year, we were doing a fundraising opportunity assessment for a consulting client.  We requested some basic reports like donor retention and direct mail results to name two of many.

The client could not provide a single report!  We were disappointed that they could not pull any data for us to assess.  They knew they had problems and this showed exactly how it was hurting them.

The Three Big Misfires of Nonprofit Data/Information Management:

Organizations are simply not making the investments!

  • Lack of investment in staff – training and number of staff dedicated to this important job.
  • Lack of investment in the right tools.The key tool for data management is your database.
  • Lack of investment in collecting and properly entering donor information. The information your store must be retrievable in usable formats.

Back to our client – they were literally cutting off their opportunity to increase their fundraising results.  They were leaving money on the table!

There are five areas where poor data management poses a threat to your successful fundraising.

  1. No Fundraising Plan

A solid fundraising plan is built on data.  How many times have you heard the saying – you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?  This basically describes a fundraising plan.  Developing your plan requires you assess where you have been and find your opportunity for increasing your results.

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  1. Limited Ability to Assess Progress

You are nearing the end of the first quarter of your fiscal year.  How are you doing?   Are your tactics working?  Are you seeing the results you planned for or do you need to adjust your strategies and tactics?

  1. Inability to Demonstrate Results

If is isn’t measured; it wasn’t done.  Fundraising is a numbers game and it has to be measured.  And, demonstrating the return on your fundraising investment is key, which leads to the next point.

  1. Lack of Buy-in from CEO & Management

Everyone loves to back a winner.  When you can demonstrate results and explain the strategies you used to get those results – you will get buy-in for your fundraising program.  And that buy-in can result in better investment in fundraising and participation in fundraising strategy.  Who doesn’t want a little more money and hands???

  1. An Uneducated and Inappropriately Involved Board

Probably the most overlooked tool to educate the board about fundraising is a solid fundraising plan.  They don’t need all the details, but they do need to understand some of the strategies you are using to achieve greater results.

And, sharing your demonstrated results (developed with your data) builds the board’s trust and confidence in the fundraising program.

One more little plus – a board that is knowledgeable of the fundraising plan is a board that offers to help!!!

Bottom Line:  Investing in good data management has a very significant return on investment.

Today’s fundraising is built on data. And, this is only getting more critical for the future with big data and artificial intelligence now available to nonprofit organizations.

Don’t let your organization’s future be cut off at the knees.  If your fundraising program is challenged by data problems, NOW is the time to fix it. You can’t afford to wait.