Next, decide what milestones you want to track. In other words, what are the significant moments that represent a deeper level of support for your cause? Typically, these include the first gift, when lifetime gifts have exceeded $1,000 and if the donor has participated in a fundraising event for your cause, among others. As long as you have the data in your database to identify these milestones, you’re on your way.
Then, use your reporting tool (or ask your techie colleague to do it for you) to identify the milestones passed by each donor; this essentially describes the journeys taken by each donor to date. Ask for them to be grouped and counted. This is where you’ll find out that even though you may have a classic supporter journey in your mind’s eye, there are in fact myriad variations on that theme. You will discover that you can’t assume that journeys are linear, but you will identify patterns revealing the journeys most frequently taken by your supporters. And from that, you’ll identify candidates for the next steps and be reasonably confident that they are steps that many will be happy to take.
You may also spot undesirable journeys, such as a pattern of attrition preceded by a single cash gift. This may point to improvements in communication or supporter care policies. Either way, the data in your database can provide genuinely useful information, and with a little imagination and application, it can take the guesswork out of donor-development planning.
Robin Fisk is a senior charity technology specialist at Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit software provider Advanced Solutions International (ASI).