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4 Ways Better Data Can Help Your Fundraising

By Alexandra Hanken June 11, 2018

Nonprofit data can help improve fundraising results.When most people think of nonprofit data, they think of traditional fundraising-related metrics like donor participation, funds raised, and loyalty giving. However, we often overlook the importance of data for fundraising, and the potential value that the information a nonprofit aggregates about constituents can have.

Most nonprofits track basic biographical data, giving history, and not much more. Fundraisers might classify donors into “LYBUNT” and “SYBUNT” lists (stands for: Last Year/Some Years But Unfortunately Not This [Year]), but it’s been shown that donors don’t actually identify or respond to messages segmented by their giving history. In fact, nonprofits are missing out on a lot of potential donations by only relying on tracking data that relates to fundraising. 65% of donors would give more money if they felt nonprofits knew their personal preferences.

Like most fundraising teams, your department is probably capacity-strapped. You’re not alone, but if your team is focusing more on one-off interactions with donors rather than creating a consistent experience over time, you’re likely not tracking the relevant details you need to help cultivate long-term loyalty and warmth with your donor base. Start by creating a new set of data fields that include basic personalized info (like nickname or large segments of donor personas) and filling in that data so you can pull from it next time!

Here are 4 ways that collecting better constituent data can help with fundraising:

1. Make each of your donors feel uniquely “known and needed”

Building relationships is key for fundraising, and using your data matters

Creating personal rapport with a large base of donors is easier than you think, but many nonprofits still don’t feel like they have the technology they need to collect and integrate even simple, personalized details.

If you work in fundraising, you’re probably already tracking and merging in some of this information:

  • First name
  • Past gift amount
  • Timing of last gift
  • Last gift designation (if made toward a specific fund)

But just imagine how much more engaging your communications could be if they included…

  • Nickname (not just first name!)
  • Reference to a meaningful past interaction (event attendance, campaign participation)
  • Reference to a personal affiliation or preference (team, giving society, leadership group)
  • Segmented photograph that appeals specifically to that donor for some reason

Your fundraising communications are competing against an increasingly crowded communications landscape, and constituents are experiencing a higher level of personalized marketing in their interactions with the companies and products they use every day. Since charitable giving is often emotional or personal, connecting with them on a one:one level can make a difference toward encouraging loyalty, generosity, and responsiveness.

Futuristic Fundraising: Combined with artificial intelligence, the data you’ve collected can even help create personalized emails for each donor — for you. See how AI is changing the game on donor engagement so you don’t miss out.

2. Make the “right” ask

WealthEngine's unique visibility into the discretionary wealth of almost every U.S. adult enables nonprofits to strengthen existing relationships while efficiently engaging prospects with  efficiency. WealthEngine for Salesforce delivers wealth intelligence directly into Salesforce
WealthEngine, a Salesforce AppExchange app

Gift targets are the Goldilocks of fundraising, and for the last century, the best approach was trial and error. Ask too little of a donor, and you leave money on the table. Ask too much, and you risk offending or alienating that donor and jeopardizing their future relationship with your nonprofit.

So how do you ask for “the right amount?”

Good news: in the modern world, there are plenty of publicly available wealth indicators.

Bad news: most nonprofits are still relying on staff to do manual research and donor qualification to identify major gift prospects within their constituent population.

Manual research takes a ton of time, is often inaccurate, and doesn’t give a complete picture of a given constituent’s propensity to give. Thankfully, tech can help:

  • WealthEngine, DonorSearch, and iWave all have integrations with Salesforce that allow fundraisers to aggregate public and proprietary wealth and giving indicators, segment constituents by particular affinities or geographical areas, and even create “look-a-like” populations from existing lists of top donor prospects. For example, you could search for people who live in San Francisco with net worth of over $5M, who have an interest in the arts, and purchase a list of new contacts, or screen contacts you already have in your database. You could pull those new r existing contacts directly into a new campaign or assign them to a Major Gift Officer for future stewardship. Watch our recent webinar with WealthEngine for a demo and more information.
  • Once you have this donor data, you can create custom objects in your database to store gift arrays and target gift amounts in order to customize your ask, whether it’s done over the phone by a fundraiser or volunteer, or via email or direct mail. You can even adjust your landing pages by giving capacity, so that major donors see a higher array of gift options than participation donors.

Improve your nonprofit fundraising with flexible, customizable tools
iWave, a Salesforce AppExchange app

By automating your research and aggregating all data on a particular constituent’s propensity to give and affinity for a particular type of giving, your fundraisers will be able to make better asks in both context and amount, and are more likely to maximize potential giving while preserving relationships with constituents.

3. Improve your omni-channel engagement with your donors

Workflow of a marketing journey for better nonprofit fundraising.
Example of taking a prospect on a journey.

Nonprofits are reaching more constituents through digital channels than ever before, but not all channels are created equal. Open and click-through rates shrank significantly (Click-through rates for fundraising emails went down to just 0.42%), while social media audiences grew substantially (nonprofits’ Instagram audiences went up 44% in 2017 alone).

Engaging with your constituents on so many channels is fantastic for increasing the number and diversity of touchpoints you have with potential donors, but how can you keep track of what they’re responding to? Complex databases like Salesforce allow you to track all of that engagement activity in one place, giving fundraisers a one-stop destination to check to get a sense of what their prospects are responding to, and to give marketers the data and insights to understand what channels are performing best. As we outline in this blog, some nonprofits are even tracking the efficacy of a particular mailing, and the ROI of the spend of direct mail compared to the dollars that campaign brought in.

Whether you use direct mail as an earned income strategy or for fundraising appeals, at a minimum, it helps to have a URL in direct mail print content. Call this omni-channel or omni-channel lite, whatever you like, but… this simple tip can help your supporters be comfortable giving in the way that works best for them.

You want to avoid a scenario like this:

An example of a nonprofit with room to improve on omni-channel marketing
An example from a nonprofit that is not using omni-channel marketing. Their renewal appeal is print only, and does not have a link to renew online. Photo credit: Katharine Bierce

4. Track campaigns and referral sources with UTM codes

If you’re not collecting data on what’s working and what’s not, it’s hard to figure out where to focus your fundraising efforts.
Did you know that nonprofits spend an average of $204 in display advertising just to generate a single gift?

In practical terms: make sure you’re tracking your engagement sources in your nonprofit CRM on both an individual constituent level and in reports. (For the direct mail angle on this, see this article on reporting.) To track whether your emails or social media or paid ads are more effective, you can use UTM codes. Google has an easy UTM code builder tool and definitions and training. These are a way of tracking whether more people are clicking on your links from one source or another. The trick is that you have to actually use them in each place you create URLs. So if you have a LinkedIn post, a Facebook post, a Facebook ad, a Twitter post, and an email all going to your donation landing page, you’ll need to use unique URLs with each piece of content for those 5 channels. Once you do set up the links, though, you can go to Google Analytics and get reports on which sources of web traffic are most effective…and do more of what works!

Data Matters to Your Mission

Constituent data is everywhere. From the moment they engage in an event, read an email, check out a Facebook post, or answer the call from a fundraiser, your constituents are making countless decisions about their opinion, emotional loyalty, propensity to give, and generosity they feel toward your nonprofit. The more you’re able to know about those interactions empowers your fundraising team to improve your interactions with constituents, and engage with them when and how they’d most like to be engaged with.

The bottom line: Better processes, tools, and collecting better data allows you to make better informed decisions on how to raise the most money for your nonprofit, so you can do more of what you love…. changing the world!

For more practical tips on nonprofit fundraising, get this e-book on 6 fundraising strategies from leading nonprofits.

Download the E-book