Is Your Nonprofit’s Data Hygiene a Problem?
by Mike Montalto
March 4, 2021

Good hygiene is a must, wouldn’t you agree? No, we’re not talking about showering regularly and putting on deodorant. This is a fundraising blog! We’re talking about your nonprofit’s data hygiene.

As a fundraiser, you know the importance of strong donor data. Organizations that use their data effectively have an easier time finding ways to re-engage lapsed donors, finding engaged non-donors, can take personalization to the next level, and know what they can change to improve results.

But your nonprofit’s data hygiene is probably the issue if you’re having trouble making sense of your data and using it to your advantage.

Fundraisers are always looking for ways to raise money more efficiently. And the challenges of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic made efficacy a priority for many organizations.

It’s time to clean up!

This article will help you get a better understanding of your fundraising results by maximizing the data you already have while learning what you can do to improve.

READ MORE: How to Rise Above the Noise 

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You don’t know what you don’t know.

You know your donors pretty well right?

So, you should have no problem answering some of these questions:

  • Why do people stop giving to my organization?
  • Which communications do donors respond most favorably to?
  • What strategies have helped increase a donor’s gift size?
  • Where should I draw the line between giving levels?
  • Is all contact information for donors up to date?
  • Do we mail to dead people?

If you struggle with some of these answers, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Many organizations have questions about their donor base they struggle to answer. But finding the answers in your data is one of the most effective ways to identify issues with and improve your organization’s marketing efforts, fundraising outreach, and data storage practices.

And evaluating your nonprofit’s data hygiene and getting a better understanding of your data is the best way to get answers to some of your biggest questions, other than asking donors directly!

READ MORE: 5 Key Data Points for Evaluating Your Appeals

Is your data a mess. A data audit can help you make sense of the information you already have!

Time for a deep clean?

Data audit. No two more exciting words have ever been spoken!

But it may just be the most important thing you can do for your fundraising in the long run. Performing a data audit could force you to confront a harsh reality; your data is a mess!

Many organizations don’t realize how big the problem is until they start digging into their data. Or maybe you realized it and want to put your head in the sand and ignore it!

Think about all the places you have data stored, including spreadsheets, programs, servers, and that unorganized folder of handwritten notes from phone calls.

Identifying where all your data is stored and consolidating it so that you can make sense of the data you already have is key.

If you are a large organization with a lot of data, you may want to invest in a donor management system, if you haven’t already. It can help you make sense of the data you already have and make it easier to maintain your nonprofit’s data hygiene going forward.

Or, if you have a more limited data set, smaller donor base, or are just already well organized, you could keep your records in a designated spreadsheet or folder. Even so, you might still consider moving to a donor management solution that can grow with your needs!

READ MORE: Performing a Data Audit Sets the Foundation for Fundraising Success

Good data hygiene will help your data speak clearly. What is it trying to tell you.

What did your data tell you?

Hopefully, your data speaks much clearer after you perform a data audit.

And we know it was so fun to dig in and scour your data base. But the real work is just beginning.

Luckily, it will be much easier to improve various aspects of your fundraising now that you’ve addressed your nonprofit’s data hygiene.

So what do you want to ask your data, now that it can talk back?

Is your donor retention rate well below the average of 45 percent for nonprofits? It might be time to build in some more non-ask communications to keep donors engaged in between appeals.

Do your repeat donors rarely increase the size of their gift? You can build more effective and targeted ask strings by using what you learn from analyzing your results.

Do many of your donors make smaller gifts several times throughout the year? A monthly giving program could be perfect for your organization!

Or, maybe you’re struggling to secure donations through your online giving page. You may need to make it easier for donors to give by using shorter forms or making your site more mobile friendly.

READ MORE: Securing Support Through Your Online Donation Page

Take the wheel, data!

Remember, every nonprofit is different and faces its own unique challenges. It’s important to listen to your data and let it guide your decision-making process.

For example, you may find certain donor segments need a little more love in between appeals if they lapse at a higher rate.

It also opens the door for more effective A/B testing and other ways to evaluate your outreach or appeal strategy. Do your donors prefer a direct mail appeal letter, a more visual appeal package, or is an email enough for them to give?

We don’t know. But your data might clue us in. As long as you have good data hygiene!

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