Getting Big Results with Big Data

No matter the type, size, or budget of your nonprofit organization, the same rules can be applied when it comes to managing data and using it for fundraising. You have the data, but what’s the next step?

At the FundRaising Success Wake Up Your Fundraising Breakfast Panel in Washington, D.C., last month, Joe Boland hosted a discussion on “Maximizing Your Return on Big Data.”

Four fundraising pros participated in the panel and offered their most helpful tips:

Acup’s summary of success includes using case scenarios to drive your strategy, asking what you want the data to do for you. He said that big data is actually about the smaller data, and suggests nonprofit employees read “Big Data Marketing” by Lisa Arthur. The book explores the idea that copious amounts of data can get messy, and Arthur explains through real-life examples and a light amount of humor how marketers can sort through and accurately use it to their advantage.

Acup also mentions that regular meetings between departments should be held, to stay updated on the data coming in. He notes that to fully understand what data affects fundraising, you need to test, test, test. Also, to focus on the lifetime-value data, to get a better picture of long-term fundraising effects.

McCurry says that everyone in the organization should understand that data is the answer, and they should all be advocates of utilizing it. “Accessing data and understanding data are two different things,” McCurry said. “Make it an operational mandate to provide a ‘decoder ring’ so fundraisers understand data.”

Richard Reider says the focus should be on “data hygiene,” making sure the data is cleansed properly. A nonprofit should always lean towards acquiring more data, because knowing the small changes in details can make a huge difference with donors.

Zhabiz Chu states that nonprofits don’t necessarily need one database system to be effective. Just make sure to use overlays and make data easily accessible to anyone in the organization that may need it. Create a glossary of terms around data so everyone understands what the data actually means. “It’s so easy to lose trust if data is wrong or misinterpreted,” Chu said. “You have to translate the data so fundraisers understand, because they don’t have the time to spend translating it.”

The one tip that all four panelists agreed on was to survey your donors! Without feedback, an organization can’t tell what is and isn’t working for them.

What works for your nonprofit or association when it comes to managing and utilizing data? Does it coincide with what the pros have to say?

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