Listen to your data
“How does data inform programs? How do you segment based on what the data is telling you? How do you message people differently based on data? Test different approaches, and let the data tell you what works and what doesn’t work,” Boucher says.
Let fundraisers fundraise
“Fundraisers aren’t always data analysts; they’re fundraisers,” Martin says. “When you have limited resources, you’ve got to have people out there doing their jobs.”
So, Martin says, you have to find a specific skill set for data, and getting outside help may be necessary.
“Collecting data, putting pretty charts up — it’s no good unless somebody can interpret it and use it,” she adds. “While the self-service model is great, not everybody can interpret it. It can be overwhelming and confusing to people who don’t understand it.”
Behavioral data is very important
All nonprofits should collect information like giving history, event attendance, interactions with the organization — and you should be tracking it as well, Boucher says.
In addition, look at differentiators such as wealth data, direct-mail or email ask amounts, demographic data, life stage, children vs. no children, etc.
“Those things can really inform messaging,” Boucher says. “The further down the road of big data, the more personalized you can get with every level of your fundraising.”
It’s a team effort
“You should be aware from the outset that this requires a huge commitment on the part of the entire organization. It’s not something that one person can give it a go,” Boucher says. “And it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Boucher says it’s important to start small and test a manageable project to demonstrate results and gain momentum and support from there.
Use many methods
The organizations that are most successful with big data, Boucher says, use a lot of different methods for data collection — internal data, appended data through screening, modeled data, surveys, focus groups, donor behaviors, etc.