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Customer Data Platform Is Redefining What It Means To Be a Donor-Centric NGO

By January 26, 2023

With Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform, Save the Children (STC) saw an opportunity to completely revolutionize their data management strategy in service of their mission. STC works around the world and around the clock to save children’s lives and protect them from harm — and that’s not a small task. They require major, ongoing, and reliable funding to sustain the support they provide to children living in the hardest-to-reach places on the planet. With that steadfast commitment to their mission, the leadership at Save the Children is deeply committed to innovation in an effort to maximize their revenue and to engage more personally and effectively with their supporters.

The results to date have been extraordinary, and the future vision of what this can mean for STC across their impact, engagement, and revenue portfolios is limitless: after only four short months empowered by this vision, Save the Children’s 2022 Giving Tuesday campaign saw double digit uplift in their returns, the kind of results that are truly the envy of the charitable sector right now.

What is Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform? Powered by Salesforce Genie, it helps nonprofits truly get to know each of their supporters by unifying and harmonizing thousands of data points about them in real-time. It helps organizations like Save the Children understand who their supporters are, what issues they’re interested in, and what kinds of content they prefer to engage with. In short, it redefines what it means to be donor-centric.

Once a nonprofit understands their supporters on that higher level, it can deliver deeply personalized experiences at scale. That matters because people now expect tailored, relevant, high-quality experiences from all of the brands and companies they interact with—and those expectations definitely extend to the nonprofits they support. Why should nonprofit marketing and communications be any less sophisticated than what corporate brands are doing? Supporters don’t want to see generic fundraising emails or social media ads. They want nonprofits to already know how they prefer to support and interact with them — without having to tell them every time. Customer Data Platform lets nonprofits do that with every single one of their individual supporters — at scale. 

For decades, nonprofits have talked about being donor-centric, but in most cases, that simply hasn’t been possible to achieve at scale because of siloed data that didn’t show marketing or fundraising teams the whole picture of a donor. But Customer Data Platform is redefining what it means to be donor-centric. It shows nonprofit fundraisers what content their donors are interacting with, their activities, and where they are giving. It provides the insights fundraisers need to engage with supporters in informed ways — driven by behavior, not opinion or guesswork. 

Imagine a supporter has donated to three different funding streams within an organization. Without a single source of truth about their donation history, propensity, and lifetime value, each fundraiser responsible for a funding stream would compete for the same donor. Or what about a supporter who also receives services from an organization and does advocacy work on their behalf? Most of the time, those data streams are kept separate within a nonprofit, so that person will receive marketing messages from all three streams, bombarding them with non-specific information and requests that may fall flat. Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform can serve as an antidote to the kind of donor attrition that has often been seen during past recessions, and given the current economic situation worldwide, that’s a huge plus. As nonprofits continue to struggle with staffing, resources, and revenue portfolios, Customer Data Platform can enable much richer conversations with donors. Whenever nonprofits deliver an ad campaign, a direct marketing piece, or a fundraising email, they can highly personalize it, helping it resonate better with supporters and improving rates of return. Look no further than Save the Children.

Volunteers working at a nonprofit

Customer Data Platform can also help nonprofits engage volunteers more effectively. We know nonprofit volunteers have the highest LTV of any engaged constituent, but often, volunteer data has been kept separate from donor data. Now it can be fully integrated into individual profiles, allowing nonprofits to identify and tap into a very valuable source of support.

Customer Data Platform can also reduce the risk associated with new fundraising streams or campaigns by identifying supporters most likely to fund those initiatives and asking them, “Would you support this?” before spending valuable marketing dollars. Imagine planning an event in a specific geographic location and being able to ask people who live nearby whether they would attend. Not only can nonprofits ensure an audience for events and programs, but they can also build trusted relationships with supporters by asking for their input before making decisions. Supporters get to feel like insiders—trusted sources of information and advice—and that trust can establish their lifelong support. 

After decades of trying to become truly donor-centric, nonprofits now have a tool that can effectively and efficiently support them in that goal. Not only can Customer Data Platform save nonprofits money, time, and frustration, it will enrich conversations and relationships with supporters and build their reputations as trusted, forward-thinking organizations that get it. Customer Data Platform lets nonprofits meet supporters where they are and move into the future with them, together. 

If you’re curious about what Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform could mean for your organization — contact Salesforce to learn more.

About the Authors

Sterrin Bird, Industry Advisor at Salesforce

Sterrin Bird
CFRE, Senior Director, Nonprofit Industry Advisor, Salesforce 

Sterrin is a nationally recognized leader in the nonprofit community, with nearly three decades spent working with some of the most prestigious organizations in the country, including UCSF Medicine, Duke Medicine, American Red Cross, United Way and the March of Dimes. In addition, she founded her own consulting practice in 2010. Sterrin partners with organizations to ensure they can access the affordable creative support and counsel necessary to scale their operations — and their impact. She’s conducted more than two dozen capital campaigns throughout the United States with combined fundraising goals in excess of $5.5 billion. In 2020, she joined Salesforce as a Nonprofit Industry Expert.

Sarah Angel-Johnson headshot

Sarah Angel-Johnson 
Chief Information Officer, Save the Children 

Sarah has 20+ years of proven results in being a business and technology change agent at scale, starting with coding IBM’s first ecommerce website to standing up IBM’s first diversity councils and employee affinity groups in the 1990s to digitizing the $860 million Girl Scout Cookie Program for 2.1 million girls and adults. The launch of “Digital Cookie” garnered 4 billion media impressions with Sarah quoted in the NY Times, Forbes, and more, as well as recognitions that included a place in Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Nonprofits. Following Girl Scouts, she joined Year Up as CIO to empower young adults to reach their potential through careers and higher education and was recognized as InspireCIO of the Year for human-centered design and data-driven outcomes. Sarah is passionate about making the world a better place and was honored with a U.S. Congressional Award for her work with underserved youth. Believing that every child deserves a future, she took the next step in this journey and joined Save the Children as CIO where she is making a difference in over 100 million children’s lives per year in over 100 countries.