How to Use Big Data to Grow Donations

by Danielle Bloom

3 min read

Businesses use big data every day to track progress against strategic goals and nonprofits are now following suit. When your nonprofit collects and analyzes big data, you are ensuring that your (oftentimes scarce) funding is creating the most impact both in terms of positive change in the world, and in donor acquisition and retention. The more data you collect and share, the likelihood of continued financial support increases. If you’re looking for ways to track your nonprofit’s work while also growing your donor base, consider using big data.

How to Capture Nonprofit Big Data

Big data for nonprofits takes many forms. Most nonprofits focus their data tracking in two main areas: organizational impact and donor relations. Before you start tracking and measuring data, prepare by designating ample staff and/or volunteer support to the data management initiative. Ensure this person/team is comfortable with your data tracking software, strategic plans, and fundraising techniques. Capturing big data also requires a goal and a benchmark from which to measure progress moving forward. If you haven’t already, create a SMART goal that meets the following requirements: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your mission, and time-based. On the donor side, never underestimate the importance of a good donor tracking system. Whether you choose to use a spreadsheet or a customer relations management software program designed for nonprofits (such as Blackbaud or Andar), it’s imperative that you use a system and create a plan that everyone in your nonprofit follows.

The Data to Track

There are a number of vital metrics nonprofits use to track progress and report results. While not an exhaustive list, you could start by monitoring and reporting these metrics:

  • The number or amount of clients/areas served
  • Cost per average service
  • Overhead/administration to program ratios
  • The return on investment

Then, branch out to track donor and resource development-related metrics such as:

  • Donor retention (Year No. 2 donors/Year No. 1 donors) and donor attrition rates
  • Donor lifetime value (average gift/donor attrition rate)
  • Average gift
  • Donor return on investment
  • Average donor demographics, including age, location, gender, etc.

Down the road, you never know when you may need the data you collect. Therefore, it’s best to track any metrics that may be of use to your strategic and/or fundraising plans.

Using Data to Grow

For most nonprofit organizations, publishing data reports or supporting your campaigns with data can help increase your transparency, which has a direct impact on donor retention. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to share your results with your nonprofit’s audience of donors, board members, volunteers, and other supporters. On an organizational level, use your impact-related data to inspire new and current donors about your work. Share nonprofit stories, infographics, and statistics to highlight your impact. Present this data through email, social media, and in your other marketing materials. For inspiration, take a look this infographic created by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada. Because you now have a good grasp on donor data, use the organization-level data to tailor communications to a target audience. Research current marketing trends and try A/B testing to determine the best messaging for your donor base. At the same time, increase donor retention by focusing on donor engagement and enrichment opportunities that have a direct impact on the work and progress of your nonprofit. By focusing on big data, over time your nonprofit will create a database filled with relevant information that can help move the progress of your organization and the relationships with your donors forward.

References & Resources

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