If you’re a regular reader, you know that each month we feature special guests writing about their favorite topics. This month we welcome HBG Senior Researcher and member of the HBG Analytics team, Tara McMullen to share her thoughts about one of her favorite subjects!
Sometimes it’s hard to get started with a new program or type of technology because we don’t know what its power is. We don’t know what it can DO, so we stick with the old familiar way of doing things. But these days, doing things the same old way can leave your progress lagging and your program looking a little old-fashioned.
Sometimes the basic principles are good, they just need a little updating.
Maybe you are thinking about undertaking a campaign and aren’t sure if you have the critical mass or the right prospects to meet your goal.
Or maybe you are looking to create a prospect management system, and want a way to sort prospects into various stages in the pipeline.
Or maybe you are trying to find new potential volunteers for your board.
If you’re stumped for how to move forward and the old ways just aren’t providing you with the answers you need, then here’s my advice: consider analytics. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help, start by taking a good, deep look in your database for answers. That gold mine very likely has a lot of bits, bytes and snippets of valuable information on your constituents that you’re just not yet accessing.
Regardless of how neat, tidy and deep the information is (or isn’t!), I know that there are trends and useful insights in your database that can be seen and pulled out to give you the critical information you need.
If you’ve never done any kind of analytics, data mining, screening or modeling before, perhaps you’re not even aware of some of the questions that analytics can answer. If that’s the case, here’s…
A list of sample questions that analytics can answer:
- Who are our donors, anyway? What do they look like?
- How are we typically acquiring new prospects? Are these new prospects then turning into donors? How long does it usually take these new prospects to make their first gift?
- How can we organize and segment all of our prospects and donors to create and maintain a workable prospect management system?
- When do our donors typically peak in their lifetime giving?
- How long are our donors consistently giving to us?
- Is giving at certain levels increasing? Decreasing?
- Who are our best major gift prospects? Who are those folks who have wealth, but also are engaged with us and show affinity for our organization?
- Who amongst our prospects might be interested in making a planned gift?
- How are we communicating with our constituents? What seem to be the most effective channels? How can use our data to tweak or personalize our messaging and communications strategies for particular types of prospects?
- What are our donors’ solicitation preferences? By what method do they typically make their gifts?
- Do donors tend to give more frequently the end of the tax year? At the end of the fiscal year?
- Is our organization ready to undertake a capital campaign? Do we have the prospect capacity to meet our fundraising goals? What does our pipeline look like?
- Who might be good prospects for a specific campaign or targeted fundraising initiative, like scholarships or a library fund?
- Who are some potential board members or volunteers?
- Where have we been successful in the past? Where are we possibly missing out on opportunities?
- Do we have enough staff to support our work? How do we help maximize the efforts of our existing staff?
Does that help give you a better idea of what diving deep into your data can uncover?
An analytics program or series of projects that uses a combination of descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive methods and models can give insight and answers to these questions and more.
Analytics helps to maximize the value of the information you already have, including large amounts of constituent profile information and transactional giving data, to support and further your organization’s fundraising goals and mission.
It helps you to identify gaps, exposes opportunities, and helps you determine ways to allocate limited resources efficiently for maximum impact, so you can focus on the most fruitful opportunities ahead.
Analytics also helps you to better engage with your donors and prospects in a meaningful way –to maximize giving and increase donor loyalty.
You can do analytics in-house (depending on your level of internal skill sets and available resources) or work with an external consultant to augment your existing internal skill sets and provide guidance.
Don’t miss out on what analytics can do for your program
You will quickly see that utilizing data to help guide your organization’s strategy and streamline your work adds a hefty “science” component to the “art and science” elements of the work we do in fundraising.
So put on those safety goggles, shrug on that lab coat, and take a closer look at your data… I guarantee you will have more than one “Eureka!” moment!
“Get the habit of analysis – analysis will in time enable synthesis to become your habit of mind.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
Want to learn more? Three quick tips:
Conference: APRA Data Analytics Symposium, July 22-23, 2015 (click here for more info)
Article: Data-driven fundraising is on the rise for universities and nonprofits, by Taylor Corrado (click here for article)
Blog: Kevin MacDonell’s Cool Data blog is a favorite of mine! (click here)