Five Thoughts About Integrated Fundraising
Editor’s note: This is the last in the year-long, quarterly series of stories we’ve been calling “The Leadership Series,” where leaders in the fundraising sector speak to big-picture issues fundraisers need to think about, over and above the day-to-day details of their jobs. Not one to mince words, Geoff jumps right in with these “Five Thoughts About Integrated Fundraising.”
1. The Holy Grail: a single, integrated database
Perhaps the biggest challenge those engaged in integrated fundraising face is the effort to use a single, integrated database that shows the solicitations of and responses by each individual. Most in e-philanthropy do not understand the complexities and needs of those in direct-mail fundraising — and vice versa. For example, other than the issue of multiple e-mail addresses for a single person, deduping an e-mail list is easy: Look for exact matches. But deduping a direct-mail list requires various computer techniques so that determinations can be made as to whether Robert H. Smith is the same as R. H. Smith, Bob Smith, R. Smith, H. Smith, etc. Similarly, outputting data for mailings requires computer techniques to assure mailings are prepared according to U.S. Postal Service addressing requirements (e.g., CASS certification).
Some companies are developing integrated database capabilities for very small-volume mailers and a few that are very expensive for high-volume mailers. None of the major e-philanthropy platform vendors offers an effective solution at this time. (They can store data but don’t output information in formats ready for direct-mail processing.) The price of this type of service should drop over time so that more organizations not only can engage in integrated fundraising, but also maintain their results in a single database.
Those whose background is single-channel direct mail or e-mail are used to “clean” tests where the outbound message or package is altered in some fashion but mailed to a random sample of the same prospective donors. This yields an A/B split test, and if the test is designed and executed properly, the results generally are clear. With multichannel fundraising, often the tests are more difficult to create and the results more ambiguous.