Making meaningful fundraising management decisions requires access to the right data. You can’t strategize if you don’t know your pool of donors and prospective donors.
Data is the backbone of nonprofit fundraising. You need to know who gave, when they gave, how much they gave, why they gave, and who/what was the reason or driver for their giving. Without this, you and your organization are shooting in the dark and jeopardizing your nonprofit’s financial health. With this column we share things to consider no matter what role you play. Whether you are a data analyst, fundraiser, board member, volunteer, or CEO you should feel comfortable asking about the organization’s data: it can be your NorthStar, pointing you in the right direction.
Let’s get started with the data you are collecting – or not collecting. What data is important and what no longer needs to be tracked? How current is your information? Which records can be discarded? What information should you be tracking, but are not yet recording? Can you run reports showing lapsed donors; or changes in the size of gift by donor year-over-year. What about unsolicited prospects, or unusual gifts which you know won’t be repeated this year?
Data informs your reports. What reports can you run from your system that will inform fundraising planning and evaluation? Which ones are you running but not using? Do you have easy access to dashboard data that can inform decision making?
Data and people. Is your staff (and/or volunteer base) cross trained in data input and report generation? Who can enter data, view it, or run reports? What about accessibility and security: who has access to what and how do you control that? Who manages the data? Importantly, how confidential is your fundraising data?
What about your technology? Do you have the right configuration of easy-to-access and easy-to-use technology? What does it cost you to operate? What does it cost you to not have a system that supports your operations? Does your CRM (customer relationship management) system integrate with our systems used within your organization? Is it easy (or even possible) for you to reconcile with finance and other departments?
Other things to consider. Be sensitive to the organizational capacity and infrastructure of your nonprofit. You don’t want a system that records more data than you can manage, with reports that are too complex. You also want to make sure your system isn’t too simple. You want a system that supports a real-time dashboard of critical data points. Here’s one reason: you don’t want to wake up in November to learn that 30% of those who gave last year haven’t yet given for the current year.
The bottom line. You cannot expect your leadership team or volunteers to put in place a fundraising strategy and plan with access to current, meaningful data. While too often overlooked, data is one of the most important things a development team can manage.
It is not enough to have data – you have to use it.
[Copyright 2022 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]