News & Insight
29th October 2018
How to unleash the power of data for fundraising success
Tamsin Haigh, Head of Insight at Philanthropy Company, shares advice on how to harness the potential of your donations data for better fundraising success.
People often come to Philanthropy Company for help with their fundraising because they’re planning for the future. They want to launch a campaign, improve their prospect pool, set new fundraising targets, or revitalise their strategy. One of the best places to start in any forward-planning activity is with the past, and that’s why accurate records of your donors and donations are so important.
However, it’s not always easy to know what kind of data you should be keeping, how to analyse it or what to do with it once you’ve got it. So, here are my four tips to help you get the most from your data and power up your fundraising strategies:
- Look after your data
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein, physicist
Fundraising isn’t just about knowing how much money you’ve raised. You also need to know who your donors are, where they come from, how much they give, or when they tend to give. Otherwise, it’s going to be that much harder to develop the right strategies to ensure and advance your fundraising success. And so a good donations database is absolutely essential to capture the finer details about how people give to your cause. What percentage of gifts have come from corporates or trusts? What’s the average level of gift from an individual? How many repeat donations have you received? It’s also critically important to invest the time into looking after your donations database, protecting its accuracy and keeping it up to date. This evidence establishes your fundraising footprint and, without it, you’ll struggle to assess where you are, where you’ve been and where you might be able to go next.
- Look at the bigger picture
“Seeing the bigger picture opens your eyes to what is the truth.” Wadada Leo Smith, musician.
It’s not always possible to show a direct causal relationship between a change in income and something you’ve done or an event that’s happened, but the discovery of trends or changes in giving patterns in your data opens up a lot of important questions. It prompts you to ask: What did we do last month or last year when those donations peaked? Why are there so few donations during this period? What have we been doing differently? What other external events might have influenced these changes? Even if you can’t answer all of these questions, simply by asking them you’ll have an important conversation and start to see the bigger picture. This kind of reflection can provide the ammunition you need to improve your cultivation and engagement strategies with donors, which should lead to increasing their level of giving or retaining their loyalty as supporters of your cause.
- Set up your processes with purpose
“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do and then do your best.” W. Edwards Deming, scientist
Now that you’ve got your database, you’re recording your donations, keeping track of your activities, and looking for patterns or trends that emerge, what do you do with that information? How do you turn that into useful knowledge that will inform what you do next? Having a system, or process, to manage the data you collect will help you both identify more giving opportunities and recognise the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts.
For example, you may be able to set up your donations database to flag when an individual has reached a certain level of giving, or attended a certain number events, which may indicate a potential for greater giving or an interest that can be cultivated further. You can also use these systems to track your targets and key performance indicators, such as the number of donor meetings you have secured this quarter or the number of asks you need to make next quarter. Tracking this kind of data makes it much easier to manage your giving pipeline, report upwards, know your next steps with donor relationships, and forecast with greater accuracy.
- Know your aims
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” W. Clement Stone, businessman and philanthropist
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by data, and so it’s important to remember that all these efforts to collect, manage, maintain and interpret your fundraising information are aimed at achieving your charitable goals. You don’t need to count every single activity or measure every possible impact in order to find and tell your fundraising story.
If you find yourself drowning in data, go back to your starting point: What are you actually trying to achieve, and how? From there, you’ll be able to sharpen your focus on some of the key metrics you can use to assess your progress and inform your next steps. As your processes enable greater reporting success, you’ll soon see persuasive stories emerging that will help you further engage your donors and take you closer to achieving your charitable goals.
If you’d like to know more about how to unleash the power of data within your organisation to increase your fundraising success, please get in touch. We’d love to help.