6 ways to drive fundraising success with your data

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6 ways to drive fundraising success with your data

6 ways to drive fundraising success with your data

How can charities minimise the impact of the new General Data Protection Regulations on fundraising? These 6 key steps will help you manage your data and generate insights to keep fundraising on track


Trust in charities appears to be recovering from the lows of October 2015. However, the climate has changed.


One of the key drivers of trust in the sector is how honest and ethical fundraisers are. Couple this with incoming regulation and fundraisers can no longer just gather information about supporters without ensuring those supporters understand how it is going to be used.


Data is key to generating insight that can help drive a successful fundraising strategy. But it must be informed insight, from an informed understanding. In 2014, Telecoms provider Orange produced a report, The Future of Digital Trust, which showed that 78% of people think it is hard to trust companies when it comes to use of their personal data. Furthermore, the Information Commissioner’s Office has placed charities in the spotlight, levying large fines on high-profile charities for how they have used personal data for fundraising purposes.


With the new General Data Protection Regulations being enforced from May 2018, charities – just like all other organisations – will be subject to more rigorous scrutiny. So what would happen if we lost trust again and we weren’t able to connect or engage with supporters – via email, phone, or even on social media? If we had to remove every trace of that person from every system we maintain? In consent audits conducted with charities, we’ve found most charities will be unable to use at least 25% of the data they’ve collected because of a lack of permission from the individual. This will hit charities hard, many of whom are already having to fight for donations in an austere economy. That’s the real impact of GDPR.


So, with a nod to the new regulation, we’ve put together 6 key steps that will help you minimise the impact of regulation and maximise your fundraising performance.


1. Surface insights


Every person in your database can be characterised and analysed according to their behaviour and the actions they undertake. We can get to know them. To understand their behaviour. To be able to analyse and predict their actions. While the GDPR means that you may have to minimise the quantity of data you hold on individuals, you can still surface patterns and insights that you might not have recognised before.


Improving your fundraising performance relies on the assumptions you make based on the data you have. After all, the best predictor of future performance is past behaviour. One of the simplest models is to analyse your data by the recency of donations, the frequency of support and the value of the donation made.


There are, of course, more complex data modelling tools and techniques, such as regression models. Additionally, machine learning is now available to charities of all sizes. Data models are designed to get you to know your supporters and donors better. To accurately predict their future behaviour, to forecast your fundraising more effectively and to spend effectively to yield the best return.


2. Nurture, activate and develop donors


One thing we’ve noticed when working with charities is that data is stored in many different systems and departments – from volunteers to service users, campaigners to donors. It’s not unusual for us to find potential supporters buried in different databases, simply because they haven’t been activated or reactivated. This places continuous pressure on your fundraising to find new supporters, rather than creatively considering how to activate lapsed or inactive supporters.


You can effectively introduce supporters to different elements of the charity and ways to become engaged, as long as you have their consent to do so. You will know how to communicate with them, the messages they will respond to, and you will understand the reasons and opportunities that will enable them to support your charity.


3. Recruit the right supporters


Recruitment of supporters is an essential part of any fundraising effort – whether this is to replace the natural attrition or increase the size of your supporter base. However, the real value comes from focusing on recruiting the right supporters.


In a complex world of omni-channel marketing, understanding where recruits come from and what makes them valuable can be harder than ever. However, techniques such as econometric modelling can help charities understand the factors and drivers that influence donations where responses might be non-attributable.


The more targeted and specific you can be, the more effective your campaigns will be, and the more likely you will be to retain and develop supporters.


Recruiting more supporters is also about finding new and previously untapped groups of potential supporters. Experience has taught us that the ‘same old’ standard approaches tend to highlight the same old supporters.


4. RAMP up with advanced analytics


Report on your performance, Analyse the results, Monitor the changes and Predict future behaviour of your supporters. RAMP is a great little mantra for any fundraising analyst.

To report effectively, you need to understand the objectives against which to measure your overall fundraising strategy. This could mean knowing:


  • Who you’re currently recruiting
  • What their value, engagement and tenure looks like
  • What products and/or programmes are driving the most income
  • Where the gaps and opportunities lie.


The important thing is to establish Key Performance Indicators and metrics to both understand past trends and inform future strategy. Having them in place can lets you analyse your results across different appeals or years and compare results. You can see which segments and campaigns are performing best so you can drive down cost and drive up income. And, of course, you can test your campaigns to inform future activity.


This proactive monitoring of live campaigns is an area that’s expanding exponentially. There are new breeds of powerful business information visualisation tools that can give real-time insight into fundraising performance and effectiveness.


Another area of development is predictive analytics and propensity modelling, which means you can anticipate supporter behaviour. You will be able to make informed evidence-based investment decisions to maximise future income.


5. Take action


Strategies can only be tested when they’re put into action. And of course there are multiple channels and ways of connecting with existing and potential donors. Luckily there are many automated tools available to help streamline this process. Marketing automation tools have built-in analytics that trigger responses based on identifiable behaviours across print, email, social and mobile. These can help shape a supporter journey.


But if you’re not there yet, start by testing more things and more channels that will give you more learnings for when you are.


6. Sort for compliance using the 5W Framework


We’ve always told charities that the insight you get out of a database is only as good as the data you put in. In charities, data is often held in silos related to how it was collected. For example, the fundraising team will usually operate a CRM system.


Equally, there will be social channels which hold valuable behavioural data about supporters, but most of which are not connected or indeed visible for analysis by fundraising teams.


Add to that the right of an individual to be forgotten and the right for charities to process data under a legitimate interest basis – provided you have a strong case to do so – and the whole thing gets incredibly complicated.


That’s where the 5W Framework can help:


  • Why you’ve collected their data and have a firm, legal basis and argument for why their personal information is required and the purpose for processing it
  • Who you share their data with
  • What information you hold, remembering that data often sits in different silos throughout your organisation
  • When the personal information was collected. This is required by the GDPR, so you know when consent needs to be renewed or information removed
  • Where you obtained their consent, across all your different channels of communication and fundraising. Ensure this can be traced back to the consent statement used and the privacy statement seen at the time.


The way that data is currently stored in organisations is likely to cause huge confusion and enormous effort when it comes to being compliant with the GDPR. What is required is a single view of data where organisations can see all of the individuals they hold data on, and where a unique ID is created for each individual – matched across multiple systems. That means consent can be managed in a single place. A single source of truth. It is also the first step towards a single supporter view that can improve fundraising performance.


We believe that GDPR is a real opportunity to reorganise your data and make sure you have the right consents in place to build trust. Trust leads to deeper engagement and stronger advocates, protecting your fundraising – and your charity – for the future.


Andrew Sargent is consultant analyst at Wood for Trees Ltd

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