5 Ways Data Can Enhance Your Donor-Focused Fundraising
Successful fundraisers know their donors. It’s a truism long repeated in the philanthropy world, though fundraisers’ understanding of its meaning has evolved over time. Recently, many fundraisers have shifted from a technology-focused “cash machine” model of donor relations — in which donors are expected to spit out donations in response to solicitations that press the correct buttons — to a donor-focused “friendship” model, in which fundraisers focus on building human connections and developing personal relationships with donors.
While the shift to a donor-focused approach is laudable and, I believe, likely to be effective in improving fundraising success in the long term, fundraisers need to be careful not to lose sight of data in the move toward relationship-based fundraising. To develop a successful donor-focused strategy, fundraisers need to rely on rigorous analysis of high-quality data to understand the characteristics and motivations of their particular donors and prospects, as well as the nature of their organizations' existing relationships and the fundraising landscape in their targeted communities. This data-grounded understanding provides a necessary foundation for effective connection and relationship-building.
To support a successful, donor-focused, relationship-based fundraising strategy, organizations should collect and analyze information on donors, prospects, past campaigns, public perception, peer organizations and best practices to create a broad and robust data framework from which to work.
1. Segment donors
Basic donor and campaign records can be a treasure trove of important, relationship-building data if used skillfully. A look “under the hood” of an organization’s fundraising database should provide data that can be analyzed to identify clusters of like-minded donors around which to build a tailored personal engagement strategy.
While donor segmentation is a routine part of fundraising (e.g., segmentation by gift size or recency), effective donor-focused segmentation goes beyond the basics to identify distinct combinations of qualities that define a specific organization’s subsets of donors. The segmentation process should take into account a variety of individual characteristics, such as:
- Reason for engagement with the organization
- Existing relationships with the organization or its members
- Geographic location
- Demographics (e.g., age, sex, marital status, ethnicity)
- Donation method (e.g., online, paper, in person)
- Communication preferences (e.g., social media, email, post)
- Timing of donations
- Donation amounts
Useful donor segments form true “culture groups” with whom fundraisers can establish lasting and fruitful relationships using culturally appropriate communication, cultivation and solicitation methods. Robust and accurate donor and prospect segmentation is absolutely essential to a data-driven, donor-focused fundraising strategy because segmentation allows a fundraiser to understand and connect with donors and prospects on a human scale. Ideally, all data analysis and research projects should reflect and inform an organization’s understanding of its donor segments.