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DATA RE-SET: What Does Your 2019 Tell You About The Future?

DATA RE-SET: What Does Your 2019 Tell You About The Future?

Your 2019 campaigns are in the books. Did you meet your goals? If so, congratulations! If not, don’t fret, but don’t sit idle, either. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take a deep dive into the previous year’s efforts and gain insight on what needs changing to deliver better results. Several years ago, the New York Society of Association Executives wrote an article on the basics of benchmarking. What was true then is still true today: a simple but diligent approach to benchmarking goes a long way in maximizing your fundraising program. Let’s take a look at what NYSAE recommends, and how you can tackle it.

 

Step 1: Set Goals.
It sounds simple, but don’t be fooled. Successful benchmarking starts with definable goals that are neither too general nor too specific. Every fundraising effort wants to increase donation totals year over year—so that is too generic. Hitting a certain numeric goal may be too specific. The best goals target opportunities while feeding into the obvious target of improving results. For example, increasing the average donation from current donors could help generate more revenue without expanding the giving pool. Conversely, getting more of a certain type of donor—first-time donors, younger donors, etc.—may help broaden the donor pool in a way that helps sustain future drives. NYSAE suggests starting out with three specific goals, but the actual number is up to you. We suggest you pick at least one, but no so many that tracking and analyzing it becomes unmanageable. If you’re already setting goals, then you’re on your way—simply make sure they are measurable, they align with your overall organizational targets, and work with the data you have or can collect.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Data
Again, sounds simple right? But if you identify a goal that requires data you don’t have, you need to either change the goal or collect the data. Say you want more donors under age 35. Do you have a way of identifying donor age? If so, you can do some digging and determine recent historical trends. If not, could you collect the data without creating too much friction among donors or potential donors, who may be reluctant to hand over personal information? Don’t be afraid to set goals that require new data, either. It could be something simple, such as the timing of donations following certain mail pieces. (Maybe, for instance, you’ll find that donations generated by a third reminder is not worth the expense.) It may be ambitious, such as trying to put your existing donors into income brackets in an effort to identify those most likely to increase their giving. If the goal is important enough, it is worth exploring whether you can link donor patterns to the applicable data. Bigger picture, understanding the data you have can help shape the entire benchmarking process. You may discover that you don’t have the data you need, or you may have a treasure trove of information waiting to be parsed. (We bet it’s the latter—but we’ll get to that soon enough.)

Step 3: Analyze Your Data
Once you have your targets and some historical data, it’s time to do some benchmarking. Where were you five years ago? Two years ago? This can help you set realistic expectations on where to go next. Another key factor: understand the bigger picture. If you set a goal to increase your average donation by 10%, but the average in your sector, or bigger-picture national average, is closer to 5%, ask yourself if the goal is realistic. Once you’ve locked down your organizational goals and validated bigger-picture trends, it’s time for a quick review. Does your list of goals still make sense? Did the da-ta-dive uncover anything that merits consideration the next time you start your goal-setting? Revisit your goals every quarter or so and don’t be afraid to make any adjustments in your goals or your tactics. Let the data help guide you!

Looking For A Jump Start?… Benchmarking and setting goals are beneficial activities that should be part of every fundraising organization’s DNA. But there’s no need to wait for an entire donation cycle to get actionable data. One of the areas we’ve been helping clients with is using their existing data to glean trends and actionable insight—a benchmarking jump-start if you will. We call the new service Do-norTrends, and it’s making a difference for our clients. In one case, we launched a lapsed-donor campaign after running its data through the Donor-Trends software. We were able to determine the donors that were most likely to return and targeted them in a dedicated campaign. The result: a boost in reinstatement numbers and a growing bottom line. In another case, we targeted likely new donors based on past activity. Using that information, we brokered and tested three new lists, segmenting each letter slightly to speak to that specific audience. The client acquired more from that one campaign than it has over multiple campaigns in prior years. Each example started with existing data that the client was collecting on its donors. The DonorTrends software analyzed it and pointed out unique trends that each organization could use to develop action plans. The results speak for themselves.

Your Data—Your Future No two organizations are the same, and neither are their donor profiles. Understanding how your donors are performing is the key to targeting your campaign efforts and generating results—from boosting overall donations to reducing your per-do-nation mailing and marketing costs. It all starts with your data.

Ready to gain new, actionable insight from your data?
Contact Sherene Rapoport • Ph: 540.428.7000 x3032 • E: sherene@grassrootcommunication.com

ARTICLES CITED: https://www.nysaenet.org/nysaenet/resources1/inviewnewsletter/2013/april2013/inview512_article5

Identifying Your Donors: Where To Start?

You know that identifying your donors is important. But do you know where to start?

Easy: With your own lists, and some basic categories that are meaningful to your organization or fundraising in general.

Your data may be well-organized, or you may have a bunch of lists that identify some basics, such as who donated during your last push, which contacts have opened your email communications, and so on. Regardless of the state of your data, this is where you start  your donor-identification process.

Among the most important things you should be tracking and segmenting on: when your donors (or prospects) give. Are they annual donors? Lapsed donors? Prospects? Figuring out the frequency of when your audience gives will help you tailor messages that fit. A lapsed donor will need a different sort of coaxing than a prospect, and a regular supporter should be treated altogether differently.

Another key attribute: the cause that convinced them to donate their money. If you don’t have different causes, this probably won’t apply to your organization. But if you have different reasons for your pushes–an annual building fund for facilities vs. a targeted campaign to help provide scholarships to young people, for instance–you should be able to tell who gave to what cause. This information can help you cut down on unwanted communication to donors that favor one cause over others. It could help you uncover willing donors by communicating to them the value of supporting other causes, too.

Data Audit and Action Plan

Once you understand the categories of donors and potential donors you have, and their giving patters, it’s time to start determining what motivates them to give. This isn’t easy–trying to understand what triggers a person’s desire to support a cause is guesswork at best (unless you’re conducting a survey, which is a great way to gain periodic insight). But you can begin to understand what triggers the give by paying attention to how your audience interacts with your messaging.

Start with the obvious–tracking how donations come in. People sending in money in a reply-to envelope were clearly moved by that campaign’s message. Electronic communication, especially emails, provides important insight as well. Track who is reading your messaging and cross-reference their donation patterns.

Perhaps you’ll learn that donor frequency does not correlate with the amount of interaction a donor or potential donor has with your messaging (though this would be unusual). What you are more likely to find is that a subset of your infrequent donors is in fact reading your messaging, liking your Facebook posts, etc., but they are not quite motivated enough to give. This type of insight gives you a very specific target of engaged, compassionate candidates that merit a very specific campaign.

The same types of patterns can help glean what moves your prospects from potential donors to first-time donors. Are you getting more via direct mail vs. online? What about at specific times of year?

The science of donor identity is both effective and can be very complex. But it does not have to start out that way. Understanding the basics of your current prospects will give you ideas on how to begin targeting your messages and your tactics. This is an ideal way to start as you’re determining how you will move into more sophisticated categories.

Helping clients build donor-identity datasets is one of our specialties.

If you are looking for ways to jump-start your donor-identification process, or take it to a higher level, we’d be happy to talk to you!

More Data Isn’t Always Better Data—Why Quality Matters, Too

If you’re a marketer and you haven’t been hiding under a rock for, oh, the last decade, you are well aware of how important data has become in developing successful campaigns. For a long time, the battle cry was, “More data!” Capture information from your customers and prospects–the more, the better.

But data quantity is only one ingredient in the recipe for successful analytics-driven marketing. Data quality matters as well–and it’s arguably more important as your dataset grows.

Why? Because data is only as good as it is accurate, and customer data points change over time. The simple act of getting older shifts a person’s data profile through the major stages of life: student, young professional, parent, retiree, and so on. An analysis by Biznology found that data can decay at a rate of 70% per year if left untouched.

Decaying data simply leads to more problems. If your team is working with bad data, they will get bad results, or the equally undesirable task of trying to hunt for better data to make the campaign work. The Harvard Business Review estimates that inaccurate or incomplete data can lower a marketing team’s productivity by as much as 50%.

Fortunately, a few simple steps will ensure that a good quantity of data will keep its quality over time.

  • Ensure duplicates are removed. It’s easy to get the same person on your list multiple times. Maybe they sign up twice, or they appear in two different lists you aggregate. Regular de-duping is a must.
  • Consider removing inactive leads after a certain period of time. Yes, pulling potential customers out of a database is painful, but so is messaging lots of people that are not, and never will be, interested in your message.
  • Collect the same data from different sources. The concept of “uniformity” is important to collecting quality data. If one lead-generation form collects ZIP codes and one collects email addresses, you will have great, but incomplete, data. One way to help fill in gaps: encourage your customers to add bits of data each time they interact with you, perhaps in exchange for something of value (e.g. a case study or white paper.)
  • Audit your data regularly. Putting your data set under the microscope on a regular basis is a prudent way to maintain quality. This is often best done using outside expertise (and it’s something we do often for our clients).

One other strategy worth considering: Automation. Processes such as de-duping can be done automatically. Use the power of digital not just for outreach, but to sharpen your outreach tools!

Developing and maintaining quality data sets is one of our core competencies. We’d love to talk to you about your challenges, and work with you to create more opportunities. Contact Sherene, our VP of Sales and Marketing, to start the conversation!

For more data-quality tips and insight, see the related infographic from our friends at Connext

Grassroot Communication | Quality Data

Tools for Change Agents In A New Organizational World

As an Economist magazine puts it. “Trust can be defined as the expectation that other people or organizations will act in ways that are fair to you.”*

We find ourselves in a time when Americans simply don’t trust organizations, businesses or even each other. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago last year, only 32% of respondents feel that “most people can be trusted” down from 44% in 1976. When interpersonal trust breaks down, citizens lose faith in the many institutions that allow democracy to function. So what does this drastic loss of trust mean for nonprofits?

The first noticeable consequence is the decrease in political participation and involvement – especially through the traditional structures like political parties. Instead of contributing time and money to political parties more and more people are supporting advocacy organizations that work to advance the specific causes those individuals are most passionate about. As citizens continue to lose trust in two-party government and its attendant infrastructure, they will turn to citizen run nonprofit organizations for leadership and guidance. Instead of counting on institutions, such as regulatory agencies and the courts, for redress, the electorate will splinter off into factions unaffiliated with the political parties so that those groups can work on real solutions to their grievances.

This is what grassroots organizations are all about, crafting real solutions to real problems while avoiding the sluggish, creaking party apparatus altogether. And these aren’t your grandparents’ church groups; these are sophisticated organizations that aim to spread their message and implement their agenda using cutting-edge data analytics to personalize content and micro-target sympathetic audiences.

Like the fearless wildcatters searching for oil in the Arctic, and the creative programmer who architects a paradigm-shifting social network, the leaders of these next generation, leading-edge advocacy organizations are visionaries. We call them social entrepreneurs because they create cultural wealth and social opportunity.

But as with the entrepreneurs of the for-profit variety, social CEOs need resources and strategic guidance to their organizations and grow their brands. And that is where we come in. Grass Root Communication has a suite of services – as well as our very own nonprofit incubator – that can assist any organization in crafting its engagement content, growing its support base and increasing its influence.

For example. Our Data Lab specializes in gleaming strategic insights from your house list as well as injecting additional demographic and psychographic information into the list and using it to target more prospects. Our Word Science department uses those same data patterns to identify different segments and to write captivating, persuasive appeals for each one of those sub-groups. And our Brand Factory can cultivate your organizations brand, transforming it from obscurity to visibility.

Whatever your cause, whatever your agenda, GRC has all the tools a social enterprise needs to develop its vision and perfect its outreach.

 

*(August 12th, 2017 pg. 53 )