Charities don’t just run on mission statements and good intentions. Donations fuel the charitable programs that make a difference in the world. The Urban Institute reports that private charitable giving is the number one source of revenue for public charities that don’t accept fees for services or goods. Our mission at Evolytics is evolving analytics in ways that make a difference in the world. In this spirit, we’re donating the following three ideas for turning one of an organization’s most valuable assets – its data – into donations. We hope these ideas help charities increase funding to do more good in the world.
Turning data into donations first requires a shift in perspective. We usually think of donors as nice people who support worthy causes, but they are also customers spending money to receive a service or benefit. That benefit may be the changes they hope to see in the world or even just the good feeling they get from giving back. As evidenced by the rise of social return on investment (SROI), donors want their donations to count, supporting charities that can prove they generate the greatest amount of good per dollar. From this angle, we can apply common business analytics and data science practices to optimize donor experiences and increase donations.
Idea 1: Cultivate Current Donors
A common business saying is, “Your best customer is the one you already have.” The same is true of your donors. They’re already interested in your “products” and invested in your mission. You may have donors willing to give more if you could better understand why they give and what they’re most likely to support.
Increasing current donor giving starts with statistical analysis to understand underlying motivations, donation preferences, and propensity to donate. This data will allow you to better segment donor audiences and perhaps score donors to identify who is more likely to give above current levels. Once you identify “ready to give more” donors, you can send targeted emails, personalize website experiences, and customize display ads to encourage additional giving.
You can even apply predictive modeling to match donors with different donation products to increase likelihood to contribute. Think of it like Amazon’s recommendation engine, but for your charitable programs. As always, run a controlled test to make sure any lift in donation conversion actually results from your awesome segmentation and not other factors.
Idea 2: Know and Grow Your Donors
Now that you better understand current donors and have maximized giving levels, you can apply that same data to find new donors. You can model current customer demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data like giving habits to develop propensity scores for new prospects and inform your marketing messages and targeting strategy.
Also, prospect modeling can help segment your audiences to test and analyze data-informed marketing campaigns. First you target new donors based on current donor data and then continue to refine your models and audiences based on campaign results and interactions. You can also apply lookalike modeling on current donor segments to directly target prospects on the internet who “look like” your current donors. Bottom line is you target people more accurately based on a propensity to donate to your organization, increasing marketing efficiency and return on marketing investment.
Idea 3: Promote Success More Often
Once you’re more effectively reaching current donors and your best prospects with targeted, customized marketing, it’s time to tell them how awesome you are, as often as possible. The more you show donors and prospects that your organization delivers results and fulfills the mission, the more likely they’ll fund your initiatives.
You probably have program success data scattered all over the place — maybe in spreadsheets, databases, reports, presentations, and more. This variety of data sources and formats means it’s not easy or quick to report on program success. Many nonprofit organizations only report program results publicly once a quarter or even once a year. That leaves large gaps of time for donors to wonder what you’re doing with their money.
To communicate success to donors and prospects more frequently, marketing teams need better — hopefully direct — access to program success metrics for promotional purposes throughout the year. Applying thoughtful data visualization practices, a well-designed, concise, automated dashboard can help democratize program data and surface success stories throughout your organization. Before you ever start building a dashboard however, you’ll probably need to corral and clean up your various data sources with a data engineering project.
Once your marketing team can access fresh program success data on a more regular and consistent basis, they’ll have great stories to tell more often in social media, blogs, press releases, emails, and advertising messages. The more you promote program success, the more likely you’ll attract new donors and increase giving from current donors.
As a company that seeks to make a difference in the world, we hope these ideas help your organization do the same. Just remember that your donors expect a return on their charitable investment, so you can approach them like pseudo-customers as you learn more about them, encourage them to increase support, and find more people like them to support your worthy causes. Let us know if you need any help turning data into donations to fuel your charitable efforts. Now go forth and change the world with data!