Most nonprofits are meticulous about making sure gifts are entered into their donor databases. And rightfully so. When a gift is entered, it kicks off an important chain of events that shapes the donor’s experience. But it’s easy to overlook what you’ve accumulated over the years—a mountain of donor data and giving histories that can provide invaluable information about your donors and your philanthropic landscape.

Your database is chock full of insights that could inform your decision-making, budget allocation, staffing structure and other efforts. It is a treasure trove. When properly mapped, the insights can guide how and where you and your staff spend time and resources. While every metric that you analyze is helpful, let’s take a look at three of the overarching benefits of studying your data.

Articulating Your Needs

Whether you’re in need of software or growing your staff, you have a higher chance of acquiring those resources when you use data to demonstrate the problem and articulate the solution to the decision makers. Consider these two statements and the big difference between them:

  • We need to build our major gift pipeline. I’d like to hire a mid-level annual giving officer to bolster the number of donors at the $1,000-$2,500 level.
  • We have 87 donors between $1,000-$2,500, and 2,816 donors below $1,000. When donors graduate to the $1,000-$2,500 level, 18% move on to the $10,000 leadership circle within four years. I’d like to hire a mid-level annual giving officer to double the number of donors at the $1,000-$2,500 level over the next two years. This will feed the major gift pipeline while generating an additional $143,000 annually.

Course-correcting the Staffing Structure

When a staff member leaves, in most cases that person’s exact job description is posted and filled. It becomes a stagnant process, and after multiple turnovers, it’s possible that the staffing structure no longer reflects what the donor pool requires. When a staff member moves on, it’s a great opportunity to review your giving landscape and make necessary staffing changes that align your structure with your fundraising plan.

Build a pie chart of your revenue for the last full fiscal year to examine how much revenue was generated from corporate, individuals, estates and foundations. Does the pie look the way you want it to look? If not, and you have an open position, change the structure to reflect your desired revenue.

Building Laser-focused Strategies and Tactics

Your philanthropic landscape should be the roadmap for your annual fundraising plan. It allows you to see exactly where you are and build a plan to get where you want to be. Let’s say your retention rate is 45% and retained donors give three times as much as new or recovered donors. A data-driven goal might be to increase your retention rate to 50% over the next fiscal year. Do the math for incentive. An example would be if you could keep the additional 5% from lapsing and the average gift remains the same, the overall revenue would increase by $45,000. Tactics to support that might be:

  • Engaging your Board in an annual thank-a-thon.
  • Introducing a stewardship packet for renewed donors that goes into detail about the impact the organization makes (and their role in it!).
  • Sending handwritten thank you notes to all donors who increase their gift by 25% or more.
  • Launching a special incentive that donors can attain when they renew with the organization for five consecutive fiscal years, such as membership in a giving society.

Bottom Line

In order to make decisions that could not only improve your development operation but potentially grow your donor pool and contributed revenue in transformative ways, you first need an in-depth understanding of your current program. There is always hidden potential lurking in your database—challenges to overcome, opportunities to capitalize on, strengths to exploit and weaknesses to strengthen. Don’t waste another minute; dig into your data and make a plan to capitalize on your findings today!

Are you looking for a resource to help you take your data analysis to the next level? Schultz & Williams’ ProFile™ Analytics service maps out hundreds of giving indicators over multiple fiscal years—from retention rates by constituency group to the major donor journey.