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: firstname.lastname@example.org
ARTICLES CITED: https://www.nysaenet.org/nysaenet/resources1/inviewnewsletter/2013/april2013/inview512_article5