This post is part of a series covering the topic of donor insights. Here, we review tips for making the most of your donor database. To continue learning about how to leverage donor data to raise more money, we recommend what to read next at the close of the post below.
Data can’t answer everything, but it can be a starting point for your organization to uncover a trove of insights that will improve donor stewardship, fundraising results, and even programmatic impact.
One of the biggest benefits to online giving is the wealth of donor data you can accumulate to better understand your audience. However, nonprofits can get overwhelmed by the amount of information and feel unsure of which data to act on and how to do so. Below are a few solid tips to help your organization use online fundraising data to reach campaign success.
You Don’t Need Big Data for Big Insights
Before digging into your fundraising data, you should know that you don’t need a team of data scientists to uncover valuable insights. Quantitative data is key, particularly in setting goals and gauging success, but you can also leverage donor surveys, interviews, and experiments to create a well-rounded campaign strategy.
For reference, here’s a list of some of the quantitative data available in Classy Manager:
- Number of campaigns (by type)
- Number of fundraising pages and average raised
- Number of donors and recurring donors
- Number of comments on fundraising pages (engagement)
- Amount of money raised
The quantitative data included in Classy reporting provides crucial information, but there is also a great deal to learn from subjective data that goes beyond numbers and statistics. Think about it like this: if you’ve heard from eight donors that your donation page is messy and the design deters them from sharing it with their network, you know there’s a problem. You may not know the total number of people who agree but didn’t share feedback, or the number of people who disagree and don’t mind the layout, but you can focus on what you do know: eight people disliked it. That insight alone is enough to take action. Next, you can send out a survey to gauge how the rest of your network feels about your donation page and then take the next steps from there.
Similarly, there are takeaways that aren’t rooted in black and white numbers, but rather are learnings that come from hypotheses being proven, or insights being validated over time. In any case, you can start simple. Classy product manager Shanna Birky rounded up three high-level takeaways from Classy’s years of experience that your organization can use to take your fundraising to the next level.
Takeaway #1: Fundraising success includes strategy, execution, and flexibility.
As any nonprofit marketer can tell you, there is no single buzzword, technique, or call-to-action that will guarantee fundraising success. However, Classy team members often share a straightforward three-pronged approach that covers the bases: strategy, execution, and flexibility.
Your fundraising strategy aligns your team with a plan rooted in data. Use both quantitative and qualitative data to create a strategy that will engage your specific audience, earn donations, and accelerate awareness for your cause.
Execution is usually referred to as the action stage in a campaign when the strategy is in motion. For the purpose of this conversation, we are drawing attention to a core competency of execution—accountability. You have to hold your staff, volunteers, donors, and fundraisers accountable for your campaign success.
Your team worked hard to create an individualized campaign strategy, so instead of publishing a campaign page and assuming that fundraisers and donors will know what to do, you have to explain what you need from each party involved. This means that you need to set SMART goals that are ambitious but broken down into achievable increments so that your network has a timeline to follow.
Campaigns can pivot mid-campaign, and oftentimes great things can happen when you adapt rather than fight to stay on the predetermined path. While it’s crucial to have a strategic plan in place, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. It’s great to stay in lockstep with the strategy, but it’s just as important that you stop, look at the big picture, and reassess your strategy as the campaign evolves.
Takeaway #2: Track your fundraiser activation rates.
“If you build it, they will come” isn’t always true when it comes to fundraising. A more accurate statement would be: If you build it, there’s a possibility they might, maybe come.
On Classy, the typical fundraiser activation rate is around 60 percent (activation rate is the number of fundraisers that have raised at least $1 divided by the total number of supporters with fundraising pages). While that’s a strong number, that means that 40 percent of your fundraisers are still inactive and leaving 40 percent of potential donations on the table.
Activation rate is a great metric to track, particularly if you have peer-to-peer fundraisers or if it’s your first campaign. It may help to use the 60 percent activation rate as a benchmark to judge your campaign’s success.
See how your nonprofit stacks up to other Classy benchmarks with the worksheet below:
If you find that your activation rate is on the lower end, you can follow these simple tips to reactivate fundraisers via email:
- Send progress updates
- Offer fundraising tips
- Share graphics they can leverage
- Ask how they are doing
A fun way to think of the relationship between your nonprofit and its donors and fundraisers is that you should “date your donors and marry your fundraisers.” This saying comes from a Classy customer success manager and points out that while many nonprofits tend to value donors more than fundraisers, this should change. Donors are a crucial part of any nonprofit, but people donate to people and if your fundraisers churn, then a portion of your donors will too.
Takeaway #3: Question your assumptions to find knowledge gaps.
Almost everyone is guilty of having assumptions and when you spend so much time in the day-to-day of your mission, sometimes those assumptions transform into fact in your mind. But if you never question your assumptions, you leave no room for growth—which is essential for a nonprofit to flourish.
The two main areas you should question are what you understand about your donors and your fundraisers. If you assume that you understand who your donors are without validating what you know, it’s safe to assume that you’re missing valuable information. Luckily, you can validate your assumptions with one simple trick: ask the right questions.
Assumption: We understand our donors.
Questions to validate assumption:
- Do you know when your donors are most likely to donate?
- Do you know your average donation amount?
- Do you know when higher amount donations typically come in?
- Do you have different types of donors?
- Do you know why they are donating?
- Do you know how they liked to be thanked?
- Do you know how they prefer to be communicated with?
- Do you know what value they get from donating?
Assumption: We understand our fundraisers.
Questions to validate assumption:
- Why are your fundraisers fundraising for your cause?
- How do your fundraisers like to be thanked?
- How or why do your fundraisers identify with your cause?
- How many times have your fundraisers fundraised for your organization?
- Do your fundraisers plan on fundraising with you again?
- Do your fundraisers understand the impact they are making?
- Do your fundraisers work with other nonprofits?
You can find the answers to these questions in a few ways. Add custom questions to your donation form, make phone calls, send out surveys, post questions on social media, or add questions to your follow up emails.
Bottom line: no matter how you reach out to your constituents, make sure that you ask the right questions and allow your nonprofit to evolve with your learnings.
There is plenty that can be learned from big data and it’s a great practice to cement your strategy in hard facts and statistics—just remember to leave room for learnings from the qualitative data as well. The most successful nonprofits pull data from both camps, execute with flexibility, and never stop questioning their assumptions.
Check out the next post in our series, Do You Truly Own Your Nonprofit Data?, and discover why it’s essential to your fundraising operations to ensure that you, not your tech vendors, own your donor data.