Inspiration or Perspiration?
When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made the decision to bring the home workers into the office, it wasn't made on a whim. She is known from her time at Google for basing her decisions on hard data, and in this case she apparently got hold of the data relating to home workers' connection to Yahoo's network, which proved her point — that people weren't as effective when working from home.
But what led her to ask for that data? She noticed an absence of cars in the Yahoo parking lots — some people were just not coming into the office. In a high-tech software company you need people to collaborate in the same physical space in order to produce great software, and she had a hunch that the home-working philosophy just wasn't working for Yahoo.
How do fundraisers make decisions? On data? Intuition? Inspiration? From what I've seen it's definitely more intuitive than data-based — maybe because as fundraisers we think we're more about hearts and minds as opposed to the black and white. However, the causes for which we raise money depend on donors' cold hard cash, as well as the time and talents of a volunteer workforce. So should we be adding data-based analysis into our decision-making processes?
And how important is data to our donors? Donors are usually more interested in outcomes rather than outputs, so is there a place for using data-based evidence in stewardship activities and fundraising pitches? The answer, according to the Open Data Institute is yes, and you should make it available to everyone.
When making a decision, having the facts on your side — especially if it backfires — can be very handy no matter how inspired your decision seems at the time. In his TED talk, Dan Pallotta urges us to consider behaving more like businesses with regard to investing in fundraising and not being ashamed of it. So if we do that, we'd better be ready with the evidence when stakeholders need an explanation. It's not a great defense to say that "the TED talk made me do it" or "it just felt like the right thing to do."
The data landscape is getting larger and infinitely more confusing. Not only do you have data in your trusty database, but you have data about how people behave on your website, data about your constituents within the social-media sites, and data in your e-mail system about how many people open and click in those e-mails you send out. But certain fundraising metrics still serve as a great basis for making sound decisions when dealing with a mass market of individual constituents. Here they are:
- ROI — what, in measurable terms, was the return from the investment on the campaign(s)?
- Lifetime value — what is the likely value of a donor, by various acquisition methods?
- Retention — what percentage of donors who gave last year have given this year?
And major-gift fundraising is much more about relationships, chemistry and inspiration. Even so it's good to measure the value of your pipeline. And if you're a major-gift fundraiser with a successful formula, why not share it here?
Robin Fisk is global fundraising product manager at ASI Europe.