Donor data that drives giving.

How to Use Donor Data to Improve Generosity and Engagement

Aly Saxe

The more technology advances the way we understand behavior, preferences and interests, the scarier it gets to dive into the data. To some, it can be daunting to make sense of data. Not to mention, the idea of collecting and using your donors’ data might feel uncomfortable, especially if your experience with donor data analysis is limited.

That’s why we want to reframe the conversation in a way that makes it more accessible to nonprofits of any size or experience level. Simply put, data is just information. It’s what data can show you that’s important. It reveals trends from your donors, your marketing and your fundraising that can help you grow and sustain as an organization. The best part about data is that you’re in control of it. You can decide the level of complexity and detail you need to execute your different strategies. The real trick is to find what you’re comfortable with, what will push you beyond your current efforts and how to leverage all the information in the right way. Here’s a few ways you can start. 

Focus on Donor Data that Moves the Needle

A quick entry point to donor data is tracking RFM. The Recency, Frequency and Monetary value of each donor’s last act of generosity can help you understand both your marketing efforts and the quality of your donor relationships. For example, if recency is high but frequency is low, you can reasonably assume that your last marketing campaign connected with your target audience in the right way, but your follow up communications have missed the mark. In the same way, if frequency is high but monetary value is low, it might be time to figure out how to increase commitment from your donors. What can you do to strengthen your relationships and create a higher level of generosity?

When you’re trying to improve donor relationships, specifically, there is also a ton of publicly available data that you can, and should, leverage in addition to RFM. Publicly available data include social media profiles, professional connections, locations, and wealth estimates. Because this information is readily available, you can pull it whenever you want. Or, you can use a tool like Virtuous to help gather this data automatically. The more context you can add to the data you already have, the more precise your communication strategies can be. Precision will lead to better generosity requests and stronger relationships with your donor base. 

Use Donor Data Thoughtfully

When faced with this mountain of available data, many nonprofits aren’t sure how to use it appropriately, and without overstepping. Here are some ways that your nonprofit can safely and effectively use donor data to help increase giving.

Target Donors Geographically 

This is a strategy often reserved for big donors. Representatives of your nonprofit are assigned a region, and they visit that region meeting and connecting with major donors. But today, you have the ability to easily curate a list of donors in a specific area. You can plan events made for everyday donors. With the majority of marketing happening online these days, an offline connection can make a huge impact. Consider holding local meet ups and donor drives in regions where you have the most active donor base. This kind of networking helps solidify donor loyalty and can help get new donors engaged.

Ask for More (From the Right People)

As you know, most tax exempt foundations have publicly available tax data. This can tell you a lot about donors’ level of giving. Source the data to see how the foundation typically gives, how much, and the kind of nonprofits they donate to. Some nonprofits fear asking for too much from these large-scale donors. However, armed with the right information you can confidently ask for gifts (or bigger gifts).

Create Targeted Marketing Campaigns

You know that list of creative marketing ideas you want to try? The one you’ve been too nervous to pitch because it might not work? Use donor data to try those ideas.  Gather a focus group of donors. A small list of donors who can give you feedback and show you trends that will show up in your larger donor base. Once you’ve gathered publicly available data such as age, occupation, and interests, you can create highly targeted and unique marketing campaigns towards a tight list of potential donors. 

Fine-Tune Fundraising 

If analyze the data you collect, from RFM to social media information, you should be able to pull insights about each of your donor segments. Those insights will give you the best path towards specific fundraising opportunities with each group. Use RFM data to determine donors who are most likely to increase generosity over time. From there, build out an automated marketing campaign that keeps them consistently connected to your cause and inspired to give. This is about getting really precise in not only how you communicate with your donor base, but how and what you ask of them. 

There are a tremendous number of ways to view, analyze, and use donor data. Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle it all to find value in it. Understanding a few key ways to use data, appropriately, can make a noticeable difference in your giving pipeline.

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