How to Enhance and Evaluate Your Nonprofit’s Communications with Data

Jun 21, 2018

By now, we shouldn’t need to tell you how important data is for a robust marketing strategy. We’ve laid out the argument of why you need data, walked you though lead generation strategies to help collect more data, and offered advice to for keeping data secure. Now we can move into specific strategies for creating engaging communications with data.

When developing a data driven strategy, there is no room for shortcuts. Simply put, you cannot just jump right in without considering everything we previously covered in this blog series. In order to create more effective fundraising communications with data, you need to collect an expansive set of information, keep it organized, and protect it from data breach threats.

Data is one of the most important tools for an effective, long-term fundraising strategy. It allows you to build a more comprehensive picture of your donor base. Data also enables you to make appeals and other forms of outreach consistent and personal for each individual.

What’s Holding You Back?

But in case you are still not sold, here’s some data on data:

  • 88 percent of marketers in a survey used data obtained from third parties to understand their customers better. (Forbes)
  • Organizations that adopt a data driven approach are six times more likely to be financially successful year-after-year than those that don’t. (Forbes)

And data on those who struggle to use data:

  • 80 percent of consumer-facing companies don’t have a data set beyond basic demographics and purchase history for consumers. (Venture Beat)
  • More than 6 of 10 marketers said they couldn’t personalize user experience due to fragmented and incomplete data profiles. (Signal)
  • The three biggest reasons marketers don’t personalize content are a lack of technology (59 percent), lack of bandwidth and resources (59 percent), and lack of necessary data (53 percent). (Demand Metric)

You Need Strong Data, Get It?

Should I say it one more time? If your organization is not using data to fuel your communications strategy, you are way behind. An expansive data set doesn’t just make for better appeals. It also can rejuvenate your stewardship process to keep donors engaged and connected with your organization.

Once you have collected, organized, and protected comprehensive data on your constituents, you can begin applying this information in your personalization efforts. Each of the following strategies can be applied to the print and digital communications your organization uses to engage with current, prospective, or lapsed donors.

  • Thank repeat donors for their previous gift of $X when making an appeal.
  • Personalize ask string amounts based on past giving data.
  • Use behavioral data to focus communications on initiatives important the individual.
  • Individualize and fine-tune messaging for specific demographics.
  • Share stories deemed relevant for an individual by analyzing data.
  • Start by including the recipient’s name, then Expand on this by including other unique data points.
  • Include images relevant for specific demographics.
  • Consider targeting certain campaigns by location, age, and lifestyle information when applicable

Measuring Success with Data 

Look, I know it took a lot of work to get this far and finally start creating more effective communications with data. However, if we stopped thinking with data now, we would be selling ourselves incredibly short. Data can not only help us develop better fundraising outreach but can also give us insight into the efficacy of your strategy and what can be improved on.

Fundraising is not free. Your nonprofit organization probably puts a lot of time and money into outreach. Any sustainable organization, be it a nonprofit or private company, must be able to measure their ROI effectively. But without data, you will leave many questions unanswered. You will not be able to accurately gauge how your campaigns are preforming. Even worse, you won’t have the information to show you where you can improve your strategy.

If you don’t manage the data on your campaigns, you can’t quantify the impact of your strategy on donors and their behavior. You won’t know if your efforts are increasing the amount of first time gifts. You can’t measure donor retention and you won’t know if you’ve recaptured lost or lapsed donors. These pieces of information are vital to measuring how successful a campaign is, beyond the scope of total dollars raised.

Data and Social Media

We’ve already talked about tapping into the astounding amount of data available on social media platforms when we discussed lead generation techniques. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are particularly active on social media, you have a unique opportunity to gather information directly from those who are interested in your company. You can learn a lot just from the feedback users give on your posts. These people care enough about your organization to follow you. Pay attention to how they respond to your social content. What are people saying in the comments when you post an article? Is someone constantly retweeting and sharing your work? Dig into their profile a bit to get a feel for how they think and why they are interested in your organization. This will allow you to target individuals with similar attributes in the future.

When we talked about social media and lead generation, we touched on the power of paid social media ads. Promoted posts are another great way to gather data from potential donors. Follower campaigns don’t just improve your reach. You should also use them to find users with similar profiles as some of your top donors. Twitter even allows you to target the followers of specified influencers with your promoted posts.

Engagement campaigns are designed to get more reactions and comments from your targeted audience. You can then use those engagements to give you valuable insight into what people think of your online presence. Thinking about your social media communications with data in mind will allow you generate feedback and fine-tune your approach for the future.

Terrific! What Comes Next?

We’ve talked a lot about data over the past several weeks. Hopefully our advice has helped you in your data collection efforts and you now have a complete and detailed data set to apply to your fundraising outreach. However, what happens when you start to collect so much data that you no longer know what to do with it? Have no fear! In our next post, the last in our data-centered blog series, we will walk you through the process of preforming a data audit.

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