Data, Donors and Dollars: Making Connections For Nonprofits

One of the questions I often ask a nonprofit organization before designing a print campaign—whether it’s an annual appeal letter, special fundraising event or an annual report—is what type of return are they expecting to get from the campaign. The most popular response I often get is an “educated hunch” of about 5 to 10 percent more than their last effort. Then when I ask whether or not they’ve properly segmented their data to customize their print campaigns for donors who prefer to give one large sum versus those who love monthly pledge amounts, I’m often met with a sheepish response like “No, how would I know that?”

With so many nonprofits out there, the art of fundraising requires a more thorough understanding of the environment to yield maximum results. In one week alone, I received no less than 25 emails and 4 mailers from organizations who work to promote a healthy and safe environment. That’s a lot of messaging for one cause—so how does your nonprofit make sure you’re getting the right message out to the appropriate donors who would want to support your work—how do you make your request stand out upon arrival?

The answer is simple—data analytics. However, the application of data analytics is not simple, but it can yield better results when a nonprofit learns how to develop better targeted campaigns that match the willingness of the donor to get revenue dollars they need to continue their work.

How does it happen?

Thanks to data analytics, nonprofits can now pull details from their existing donor database to create more effective targeted fundraising campaigns than ever before, including a better understanding of the types of imagery to include in a print piece to yield top dollars from donors! As I wrote in my last blog entry, the use of data aggregation and data mining methods make it possible to organize (donor) data to identify patterns and relationships that you would not otherwise see just by reviewing their basic information and donation history.

Data analytics affords nonprofits the ability to uncover patterns about their donors to identify common attributes and experiences shared among their donors. For example, imagine knowing the educational background of your donors, the number of children they have or the average income by zip code where your donors reside. This is data you can use to design campaigns by geography where you know you can realistically ask for higher dollar donations and get a better result on your campaign. What I just described is the use of descriptive analytics where you look at your donor data to get insights into their background. The good news is that you can take your current donor data and compare it to the attributes of others with their age range, educational background, living areas and income brackets to determine how best to attract new donors as well.

This requires you to take your client data and compare it other larger data bases that can—within just a few minutes—give you a comparison profile of what your donors look liked compared to others with similar attributes.

Sounds confusing?

Trust me, it can take a minute or two to comprehend how data analytics work, but once you understand the potential of how data analytics can help you rethink your fundraising efforts, you’ll see different results when you know which donors will respond more to opportunities to participate in large banquet events versus requests to donate smaller donations over a six-month to one year period.

You can also use data analytics to influence the imagery you’d embed within your print campaign. For example, a nonprofit whose goal is to protect the environment may want to use pictures of children interacting with nature if they know that 80% of the donors on a mailing list are parents with elementary schoolers in their household. If your cause supports education to promote birth control among the domestic pet population, your printed fundraising piece might yield a better result with pictures of cats if you knew that the donors on your list purchase more cat versus dog supplies from local vendors—this is the power of how data analytics can work! You can use it to make more scientific “best guess” as to how donors will respond based on purchasing patterns you can gleam from market studies.

With most Americans now online, there’s significant data available you can use just by comparing your donors to the millions of people who spend time on social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Believe it or not, you can now design better marketing campaigns—even online ones—now that we’re all online and research firms are tracking our every move. The great news Is that you can take this very public data and design highly effective print campaigns using regional demographics down to the zip code!

What’s also great about this concept is that over time, your nonprofit can set up a system so that you can better track your results internally so that as you bring on new donors, you have more effective ways of segregating your data into certain categories. This will allow you to design better strategies as to how often you need to stay engaged with your donors and when to strategically send out a mailer when there are environmental conditions that tell you now’s the time to ask for more donations to impact a result in your domain. Regardless of your politics, you have to admire how the Americans for Civil Liberties Union raised a record level of donations once Trump announced the immigration ban in January. The use of data analytics can help you make similar choices to bring in better revenues should you choose to pursue them!

Want to make your nonprofit smarter and better able to design print campaigns that can get the results you need to keep your operations running long into the future? Data analytics, combined with the appropriate print campaign can surely help. To find out more, click here and we’ll schedule a call to explain how your nonprofit can take your current data and turn it into future dollars!

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