Nonprofit Data Analytics: 5 Tips to Improve Fundraising Operations
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased need for nonprofit support to fill in the gaps in the global response. However, this nonprofit relief is usually fueled by donations from generous supporters — many of whom are feeling the pressure of the economic crisis themselves.
One of the best things your nonprofit can do to weather this crisis and continue providing essential services is to optimize your fundraising operations. If your organization can decrease overhead and increase success, you will definitely be better off during (and after) the crisis.
This may seem like a tall ask. However, the key to optimizing your efforts is clear: Analyze your nonprofit’s data.
Data contains the solution to many challenges nonprofits are facing, from how to best communicate with major donors to how to make the perfect fundraising ask. When you dive into your data, you’ll find the key to improving your fundraising operations. We’re going to explore the following tips to do so:
- Clean and maintain your database.
- Supplement internal data with external information.
- Conduct prospect research on potential supporters.
- Make the perfect fundraising ask.
- Target potential donors and volunteers strategically.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
Clean and Maintain Your Database
Before your organization can make the most of its data for more efficient fundraising operations, you have to first refine that data.
Digital fundraising methods have optimized the giving process, allowing supporters near and far to give at their own convenience. In addition, digital fundraising has led to a drastic increase in donor data.
Nonprofit organizations have more information about their donors than ever before. However, larger amounts of data can be harder to maintain — it only takes one missed keystroke to have inaccurate information. Further, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that holds true for donor data!
Data hygiene is the process of cleaning and maintaining your database, ensuring that the data you’re working with is useful and accurate. For nonprofit organizations, this often means:
- Ensuring you have correct contact information. Postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers should all be up-to-date and entered in a uniform manner to prevent any confusion.
- Removing outdated information. For example, any supporters who are deceased, incarcerated or otherwise unable to respond to marketing communications should be removed from an organization’s database.
- Purging unhelpful information. Duplicate entries, entries concerning minors and entries listed on the “do not mail” list can be unhelpful and simply take up space in a database.
If part of your organization’s COVID-19 response includes optimizing fundraising operations using data, developing a good data hygiene routine should be your first priority. To learn more, check out this guide to data hygiene.
Supplement Internal Data With External Information
While nonprofit organizations have access to more data than ever before, there are often instances where that data isn’t enough to build a full strategy.
There are a variety of situations where this could come up. For example, your online giving form could have crucial form fields that are marked as optional, rather than required, and thus your donors are leaving them blank. Or you could be implementing prospect research into your efforts and need information that’s only available through proprietary third-party databases.
Regardless of your organization’s specific needs, there are times where third-party data is helpful to ascertain a full picture of your supporter base.
When it comes to investing in third-party data, this is usually handled with batch solutions (ex: supplementing all donor records) or single record solutions (ex: looking up a single record). From there, the following records are the most commonly helpful for nonprofits interested in third-party data:
- Postal addresses
- Landline and cell phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Social media information
- Date of birth and deceased records
- Demographic information
- Employment information
- Wealth and philanthropic indicators
If you’ve explored your database and realized that the data you currently have is insufficient for your organization’s efforts — whether that’s fundraising, continuing communications during the pandemic, or even general planning — third-party data can fill in those gaps.
Conduct Prospect Research on Potential Supporters
Nonprofit organizations use prospect research to discover potential major supporters, indicated by those that have high capacity and desire to give. As a quick refresher:
- Capacity to give is a wealth indicator. It’s often tied to business relationships, investment portfolios and even financial donations recorded from past years.
- Affinity to give is a philanthropic indicator. It’s often tied to a potential donor’s past interactions with nonprofit organizations, political organizations and social good causes in general.
When a prospect has positive indicators in both categories, there’s a better chance that they’ll donate a substantial gift to your organization. This is valuable information for nonprofit organizations at any point — but during a global pandemic, it’s especially valuable.
You already know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenging economic conditions for nonprofits to exist within. While there is a greater need for nonprofit services, there are also fewer donors able to give during this time.
Prospect research allows your organization to prioritize engagements with donors that are most likely to make gifts during the crisis. There are a few reasons why these specific engagements are so crucial:
- You’ll solicit fewer gifts, but with more success. When you only contact donors likely to give, it saves time and resources for your organization during a time of tight budget constraints.
- You’ll avoid deterring potential donors. There is a risk of asking for gifts from donors who are unable to make them and deterring them from giving to your organization further down the line. Prospect research helps decrease that risk.
Some nonprofit professionals are apprehensive about asking for gifts during this time. That’s understandable considering the continuing economic and public health downturn! However, prospect research can add confidence to those solicitations and help your organization better steward and retain donors in the long run. This is crucial as effective donor stewardship and strong retention is essential for all nonprofits, and you can explore that further in this guide.
Make the Perfect Fundraising Ask
During COVID-19, your organization should continue fundraising (just check out this blog post to see why). When doing so, getting as specific as possible with your gift asks is the way to go. In addition to asking the right supporter to make a gift, there’s a case for soliciting the right amount, as well.
This is because:
- If you ask for a gift that’s too high, supporters may be deterred from such a high ask during a time of economic instability.
- If you ask for a gift that’s too low, the donor may give that amount — but it might be a lower gift than they would have given otherwise.
Tailoring the perfect ask to each donor you plan to solicit can be challenging, as each will have a unique “ideal” donation amount. This can be influenced by many things, including their financial capacity to give, their past giving history and even the impact that the pandemic has had on that specific supporter.
Luckily, analyzing past donor data can point your organization in the right direction.
For example, there has been a rising movement in the nonprofit sector to solicit year-end donations now — something evidenced by the recent #GivingTuesdayNow event. This movement is drawing on the fact that year-end giving is often fueled by general good feelings around the year-end/holiday season, rather than the tax benefits associated with the effort.
Organizations are asking their regular year-end donors to move this gift up the calendar and contribute during the mid-year months rather than in the final days of December. You can use donor data to improve this ask by simply referencing the yearly gifts that the donor makes to your organization in the ask itself. For example:
“Each December, we’ve been incredibly grateful for your gift of $X amount. Would you consider making this gift earlier in the year to contribute to our organization’s crisis response efforts?”
Targeting your outreach in this way — using data — is called data marketing.
Target Potential Donors and Volunteers Strategically
One of the biggest benefits of using data to improve your fundraising operations is efficiency. With data, your organization can expend fewer resources and experience higher success rates at the same time.
One of the best examples of this is location-based marketing and IP targeting, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, necessary social distancing measures have tied many to their homes. These stay-at-home efforts have, unsurprisingly, correlated with an increase in technology usage, whether it’s Netflix streaming or social media scrolling.
IP targeting is a method of delivering digital advertisements to your target audience, and you can learn more about it through this guide. To put it simply, IP targeting allows you to locate the IP addresses of your target audience (for example, certain demographics or postal addresses of known supporters) and serve ads to those supporters on their technology devices.
IP targeting offers an unparalleled amount of precision for nonprofit organizations completing outreach. Consider the following nonprofit applications:
- Your nonprofit is offering services to help your local community weather the crisis. You can use IP targeting to send targeted advertisements promoting this social good to IP addresses within your community’s geographic borders.
- Your nonprofit is soliciting donations from a certain demographic in your community. You can use IP targeting to target that demographic (for example, professionals over the age of 35 that are working from home during the pandemic) with donation information.
These are just two examples of the valuable uses of IP targeting for nonprofit organizations. If you’re interested in IP targeting, this type of advertising can be tailored to fit your organization’s specific outreach needs during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a challenging landscape for nonprofits to operate within.
Thankfully, these organizations can use data to optimize fundraising operations and weather this storm. Consider incorporating the above strategies into your organization’s efforts. and you’ll be off to a great start.
Gabrielle Perham is the director of marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.