We once had a client whose base of donors was growing every year. You would think this was a good thing. We learned, however, that the reason for this was how much emphasis (and lots of money) was being spent on donor acquisition.
When we were able to look at this client’s retention numbers, we discovered that the nonprofit was losing donors at an alarming and accelerating rate. Not a good trend, to be sure. So, while on the exterior, the organization was growing, it was really spending much more on acquisition in order to make up for its problems with donor retention.
We set about to fix the retention issue so the organization could do a more efficient job of acquiring and cultivating a better list of names in their database. If not for the deep dive into the client’s data, it would have been impossible to come to this conclusion.
My point in bringing this to your attention is that gathering, organizing, and analyzing data is the key to understanding how to maximize your donor engagement and fundraising efforts. Whatever you want to know about donor behavior, performance of various campaigns, trends, donor value, and more—it’s all sitting right there in your data.
The challenge is knowing what to look for.
You should be going as deep and as wide into your data as necessary to get solid insights and trends that you then can act upon. For most nonprofits, that’s usually the last five years and would be looked at by year, donor lifecycle, channel, acquisition effort, the particular campaign, and any other metrics that are of importance at your organization.
When you look at past campaign data, use a company like Rescigno’s that can point out any circumstances that could drastically disrupt your analysis. Outside forces such as law changes, new board policies, or politics can all play a role in how your projects perform, even if other elements of a campaign remain the same.
Have you had an experience where politics, a change in a law, or a new board policy affected your results? I’d love to know about it. Please share with me and our readers.