Performing a Data Audit Sets the Foundation for Future Fundraising Success

May 21, 2020

As a fundraiser, you know the importance of strong donor data. But you need an organized data base to get your data working for you. If you’re having trouble making sense of your data, it may be time for your nonprofit to perform a data audit.

After all, applying a data-driven strategy can enhance nearly every aspect of your fundraising outreach. Organizations with their data in order have an easier time finding ways to re-engage lapsed donors, find engaged non-donors, expand their organization’s giving programs, and so much more.

Fundraisers are always looking for ways to raise money more efficiently. And this has never been truer than now as the coronavirus pandemic extends into a third month.

Performing a data audit is all about getting better fundraising results by maximizing the data you already have while learning what you can do to improve.

A data audit is the best way to learn more about your donors and their preferences

What can a data audit tell you?

As fundraisers, we would like to think we know everything about our donors. But the truth is, most nonprofits have several questions about their donor base they struggle to answer.

But performing a data audit can help you better organize and understand your donors. And other than asking them directly, performing a data audit is the only way to answer some of your most pertinent questions!

Performing a data audit can help you answer questions like:

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

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.

A donor management system can help you keep your data organized, so you can use it more effectively

Is your data a mess?

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 you realize it and want to put your head in the sand and ignore it.

You may have collected and stored information in several different programs, folders, and servers. Or, maybe you have a huge unorganized folder of hand-written notes from various phone calls. Still, more data may be stored with third parties!

Identifying where all your data is stored and consolidating it so that you can make sense of everything you know is crucial. It’s also a big undertaking. But it might just be the single most important thing you can do to advance your fundraising.

If you have a lot of data, a donor management system is a good way for your nonprofit to make sense of what you have. It’s also makes it much easier to keep your data in order 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.

Identify areas where YOU can improve

The real work comes in once you have your data in order. It will be much easier to improve various aspects of your fundraising now that your data can speak to you more clearly.

So, what is your data trying to tell you?

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.

You need strong data to make informed decisions about where your fundraising should go

Let data guide your decisions

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, let’s say a board member recently read an article about the importance of a digital first fundraising strategy. Based on “the latest thing in fundraising” he now thinks your organization should move all your appeals to email only.

But is this the right call for your nonprofit?

Now that you’ve dug deep into your data, you know that many of your donors still prefer to give via direct mail. You also learned many of your online donors give in response to your direct mail appeals.

Your data is telling your board member’s plan may not be a good fit for your organization. It’s guiding you away from making a decision on a whim that would hurt your fundraising efforts more than it would help. And it also gives you the power to prove it.

Strong data is essential to make informed decisions about where your fundraising should go. So, if your data is a mess, now is the time to dig in, perform a data audit, and set yourself up for future fundraising success!

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