Seven sins of data: Avoid the most common mistakes when using data in fundraising

If you’re looking for ways to improve fundraising outcomes using data, here are the seven sins of data we urge you not to commit!

In today’s digital age, data plays a pivotal role in fundraising results.

Whether you want to target donors most likely to give to an appeal or determine the programs that need the most resources, data analysis and segmentation are essential for effective fundraising operations.

When used efficiently, data can help a charity get to know supporters on a deeper level. But, get it wrong, and data can become more of a hindrance than a help.

The campaign should only be wrapped up once the analysis has identified whether targets have been met. And if not, why not.

Using data for campaign analysis will help you make significant adjustments to improve results for the following appeal.

Data Sin #2: Viewing data as a standalone option

While data is pivotal to the planning and delivery of a successful fundraising campaign, other elements shouldn’t be overlooked.

Creativity combined with the individual needs of the donors are also essential elements of a successful campaign. When used as part of an integrated approach to campaign planning, data is extremely effective to help you get the best outcomes but don’t forget the other ‘greyer’ areas which are just as important.

Data Sin #3: Failing to look at more than one metric

A sophisticated reporting tool will give you many options for analysing data.

While you might base the campaign success on income alone, using other metrics will give a more comprehensive explanation of donor behaviour and trends in giving.

Consider analysing the average donation value, the number of new donors or the number of new members as a wider range of metrics to define success.

Data Sin #4: Failing to use data to evolve

Data can provide the answers to all your future questions.

Rather than simply helping you define the charity’s current position, identifying the rate of any growth or decline in programs such as monthly or major giving can help make accurate predictions on future income and resources required to achieve ongoing growth.

Data Sin #5: Only choosing data to support your cause

It’s easy to cherry-pick data based on the point you want to make, but we don’t recommend it. Using a variety of metrics will give a more comprehensive understanding of the bigger picture helping you make informed decisions about the next campaign. Only using data that will support a campaign you want to run could lead to bigger problems in the long run.

Data Sin #6: Ignoring data completely

You can have the most sophisticated data tracking tools available but they’re only effective when used to draw out a broad scope of information about donors, campaigns and programs.

If you fail to include data as a tool for planning and analysis, you will miss out on supporter facts that can help the charity grow.

Data Sin #7: Failing to define what you want to know

You should have a clear understanding of what you’re hoping to achieve when analysing the data. Do you want to assess the viability of a new program or a capital campaign? Do you want to grow your ongoing member base? Do you want to predict income growth over the next five years?

Data can help in any way you choose as long as you clearly define the problem you’re trying to solve.

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