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Data: The fundraising roller coaster’s only safety belt

Production Solutions

Describe a roller coaster experience: The anticipation of climbing, the exhilaration of the first fall, and the heart-pounding speed through turns and twists to the finish. That’s a pretty accurate way to describe the fall fundraising experience. From July through December 31st, nonprofits are focused on plans to maximize fundraising efforts in the last critical months and days of the year.

Photo credit: Network for Good (Nonprofit Tech for Good)

But those efforts aren’t haphazard; the safety belt on the fall fundraising roller coaster is data.

Yes, data, that dirty 4-letter word. The importance of not just acquiring, but understanding our donors, is critical to effective fundraising.

Imagine our little fundraising cars zipping along on a track wrought with sharp turns, like losing 103 donors for every 100 gained in 2014, or losing $95 in lapsed or reduced donations for every $100 in new donations (Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy at the Urban Institute).

On top of these sharp turns, the track is getting shorter and shorter. A 2014 Boomerang study reported a steady decline in donor retention, from 50% in 2006 to 43% over the past three years. Fundraisers can’t afford to ignore the data safety belt, and the good news is, we already have it! Yes, our fundraising cars are already equipped with data seatbelts: mailing and email addresses, giving history, giving channels, etc.  It’s time to leverage and integrate that data into effective fundraising campaigns.

Thalamus Hill, Senior Vice President of Advanced Analytics at Robbins Kersten Direct, gave a great presentation at the May 2015 DMAW Lunch n’ Learn on applying the science of predictive analytics and donor research. In it, Mr. Hill describes using data mining to determine the long-term net value (LTV) per donor, then taking that data and laying it over donor geographic data to determine not only which donors had the greatest LTV, but also where they live. These advanced analytics allow organizations to invest in retention more wisely, and maximize the financial potential of an ask. Mr. Hill’s presentation also included multivariate testing to find the most effective delivery method for the ask, resulting in a 7% increase in $15 donations, and a 19% increase in donations of $100+.

“It’s a great example of how using data can help boost return,” said PS|PS Digital Co-Founder and Principal Greg Albright. “But fundraisers can’t just stop there. Thanking these donors is also key in retention and could help in gathering additional data.”

surveyA donation page survey could provide valuable data on what causes your donors to pull the trigger, enabling more effective campaigns down the line. Nonprofit Tech for Good also mentions nonprofits using their donation page as an avenue to build their mobile list.

We know, fall is a tough time to think about diving into donor data, but it is the most effective way to understand and get to know your donors. So strap in, hang on, and as always, remember that our team is here to help.

Have more questions about Data Analytics? Contact a member of our PS Digital Team Today!