Elevate Philanthropy ™
Sign up for our mailing list

Your data tells a story. Are you listening?

Do you want to grow planned giving? Do you have a shrinking annual fund? Is your fundraising campaign stalled?

Take a look at what your data is telling you. If you are willing to rethink the way you fundraise, data-driven strategies will yield better decisions, improve performance, and accelerate your growth.

Step 1: Start by analyzing a 10-year history of fundraising revenue.

Consider: The number of donors per year and revenue per year.
Has this risen or fallen? Has it stayed flat? In what years did you see growth, and what circumstances contributed to this growth?

Consider: Revenue by gift size and number of donors per gift level, also known as gift and donor stratification. Is there a particular giving level that has seen the largest total cumulative revenue growth? Is there a particular dollar amount on which you need to focus your upgrade efforts?

Consider: Historic appeal performance, including fiscal year-end email and direct mail efforts, calendar year-end email and direct mail, federated campaigns, and other efforts. Areas to measure are total money raised, number of donors, average gift size, and response rate.

Step 2: Identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities, and address each problem dynamically.

Does your data suggest donor attrition?

First, step up your stewardship strategy. Statistically, donors stop giving to organizations that don’t effectively communicate the impact of their gifts. Does your gift acknowledgment include examples of tangible outcomes, thanks to their gifts? Is it sent from your organization quickly? Are you onboarding a first-time donor by further introducing them to your organization and celebrating their gift in a distinct way? What have you learned about your donors’ gifts, and how can you engage your donors meaningfully in a way that reflects you understand them?

Second, promote a sustaining gift program. Monthly giving programs are a low-cost, high ROI vehicle for assuring donor retention. Remember to celebrate this loyal group as they can, over time, be good candidates for planned gifts. Don’t forget to ask them to upgrade their gifts annually.

Third, stick to a schedule. Timing is key. Though many donors consider their annual giving as calendar year-end approaches, not all do. If a donor has historically given in May, there is probably some life or logistical event that motivates them to give at this time. Thus, celebrate the anniversary of their gift the following May, and remind them to renew (and upgrade) that support.

Does your data suggest low donor acquisition levels?

First, strengthen your case. Storytelling is critical to connecting with your donors emotionally. It helps make your donors think and feel and inspires them to take action, such as making gifts. Donors don’t care about what your needs are; they want to know what problem you are solving. Begin by sharing the problem you’re solving and be clear about how their gifts help solve that problem.

Second, target warmer prospects. Don’t spend money on buying mailing lists. Tap constituents who are or have been engaged with your work: ticket buyers, members, newsletter recipients, current and former volunteers, survey respondents, patients and their families, alumni, parents, grandparents, board alumni, and former staff.

Third, refine your appeals and review their frequency. Personalize your salutations, vary the authors of your letters, be straightforward in asking, and ask twice within the body of the letter for a specific suggested amount. Segment appeals with specific messaging and asks, and solicit often but strategically. Target four annual fund appeals each year and two special appeals (for example: an anniversary mailing, segmentation based on school or funding priority, or an event-focused appeal).

Does your data demonstrate a low average gift amount?

First, strengthen your case and quantify the gift. Show your donors the impact of their gifts, rather than stating their importance. Give specific examples of how you will use their money. When asking a donor to increase their gift, explain how many more people or what type of services will be impacted by a gift of that amount.

Second, ask for specific and larger gifts. People don’t give unless they are asked, and donors tend to under-give when not asked for a specific amount. Every proposal should have a bold ask, and every pledge card should have a customized ask string based on giving history, even for donors who give $10,000 or more.

Third, acknowledge upgraded gifts. When a donor does upgrade their gift, a celebration and acknowledgment of the increase in support and its impact will lead to even more increases in the future.

Does your data demonstrate a low response rate?

First, create a sense of urgency. Use an active – not passive – voice in appeals. Employ words such as “today” and “now” for a call to action. Set deadlines for your donors, and make it easy for them to meet those deadlines with reminders and online and mobile giving tools.

Second, remove obstacles. Have a pledge form and stock transfer instructions at your fingertips, make your giving form accessible on your homepage, send donors follow-up and reminder emails with links to give online, and include business reply envelopes with pledge cards in mailings and annual reports.

Does your data demonstrate a low open rate?

First, test subject and delivery times. Whether annual fund or planned giving appeals, newsletters or digital annual reports, test subject lines, the day of the week, and times of day until you see what works best for your constituency. Many email marketing providers make this “A/B Testing” easy to set up. Don’t forget to test delivery on nights and weekends!

Second, e-reminders are appreciated. While face-to-face fundraising and direct mail drive revenue, online giving helps drive participation. Even if your email-to-gift conversion rate seems low, e-solicitations serve as reminders and reinforce the ask made through other channels.

Testing just one or two of these data-driven approaches can have a dramatic effect on your fundraising success. Your data tells a story, but you have to be listening.