When I suggest that development staff pull data on their fundraising campaigns, the most common responses are dread, avoidance and boredom. Once we get the data (properly) pulled and analyzed, a different reaction appears.
Not only are the development staff pleased to see what is – and even isn’t – working well, but by how much, so that they can make more informed decisions moving forward, knowing that this is the right course, rather than going on instinct. In some cases, development staff had been in a battle of this gut feeling vs. that gut feeling with management, citing anecdotal evidence of what several overheard comments had been, etc. This kind of policy-making can be terribly frustrating!
If you’re a development staff member and don’t know how to pull detailed data (not just your total figures) out of your database, it’s time to make friends with the person who can do this for you . . . and it wouldn’t hurt to get some training yourself, so that you can manipulate the data once you get it.
Having the data is only the first step, because you’ll need to present this information to others, such as your senior staff and board members. The more you can show your data in a palatable, comprehensible format, the better it will be received – and remembered.
Take the example below, which shows a six year history of an annual giving campaign, segmenting mail, online and phone income per year. Even those who are not in development can easily understand this chart.
If your data isn’t entirely complimentary, it’s still important to see what it says, because this can help drive policy decisions – and changes. If something isn’t working, clearly it’s either time to stop doing it . . . or at least drastically alter the strategy. Knowing this – and having a baseline measurement – shows where you’ve been and where you’re going.
It’s also highly unlikely that everything in your campaign is failing, which is why it’s essential to drill down into your analytics and find what you are succeeding at. Perhaps your retention is weak, but acquisition is improving? Maybe your average gift is lower than it was, but your number of gifts is greater?
What about your channels? Are you making the most of online giving? When you compare the Blackbaud Index of (Overall) Charitable Giving with the Index of Online Giving (for nearly any month, size or type of organization), it’s clear that online giving is doing better, relatively. Nonprofits that make online giving a larger part of their annual campaign will succeed more overall. It is the future of annual giving.
Therefore, this would be a good subset of data to present. Over the years, how has online giving increased? Another specific set of data within this question to answer would be the size of online gifts. Such data might be presented in this manner:
Clearly, this data demonstrate a responsive population that is more and more willing to donate online – and with larger gifts over time. This tendency for larger donors to make online gifts was documented in a 2008 study by Convio et al, The Wired Wealthy.
What will your data show? Whatever it is, it’s likely to help you make your case for doing more or less of one type of campaign, and focusing on what will help you reach your goals, as well as give your constituents more of what they want . . . now that you better realize what that is.
Remember – data doesn’t have to be thought of as a four letter word!