Using the findings of a survey that asked 100 charities about the way they collect, analyse and use data to inform their fundraising strategies, Erin Longhurst, communications and social media advisor at Social Misfits Media discusses the value of data in fundraising. In an increasingly noisy digital universe, charities need to create a seamless user-journey across all channels to retain their audience’s attention. Using data strategically when it comes to your social media activity is imperative – it can provide insight into what’s currently working when it comes to your digital activity – and what isn’t. Data is an important part of the future of digital fundraising and charities need to change their culture if they don’t want to be left behind. The biggest obstacle we hear from organisations is that it’ll take up too much time, or it will cost too much. It’s worth focusing more on the benefits – using data to inform a strategy takes the guesswork out of a fundraising approach, and can help you streamline processes. It may seem daunting at first, so we’ve broken down the process into the four stages:
According to Andrew Means, founder of Data Analysts for Social Good and The Impact Lab, you should be collecting demographic data, such as names, ages and locations. “Beyond demographic information, there are two types of data that are really key: attitudinal data (how a person thinks or feels about themselves, the world or your cause) and behavioural data (what people actually do).” Think about the questions you want answered and avoid over-collecting data. Use tools to automate as much as possible, and test hypotheses around how people want to engage with you on social media. This doesn’t have to be costly, or overly complicated.
Analyse the data you’ve collected to identify valuable donors, which channels are proving the most effective, and the direction you will need to take in the future. By the collection stage, you should have formed the questions that you want your data to answer, according to Nik Shah, Measurement Partnerships Lead at Facebook. Bad analysis can undermine what you are trying to accomplish, so expertise is key, as is a good understanding of your organisation’s needs. “The best analysts are not the ones who have necessarily the flashiest skills, or can build the most sophisticated models, but rather those who are aware of all the business needs,” says Shah. “They create theories and interrogate the data to prove or disprove those theories. “Quality of analysis doesn’t come from sophisticated technology. It comes from asking the right questions and keeping the organisation’s goals in mind.”
Implement changes from your insights as part of an ongoing fundraising strategy. “There is enormous value in understanding the networks of the individuals that support your cause,” says Mike Bugembe, the chief analytics officer at JustGiving. The online fundraising platform used behavioural data to find that individuals were often motivated to start a fundraising campaign after the death of a loved one. As a result, JustGiving created an “In Memory” product, giving users a tailored and more sensitive experience, while also giving charities visibility so they could add those supporters to a more appropriate supporter-care programme. By implementing changes they vastly improved the user experience, which lead to greater fundraising success.
Internalising a data-led fundraising culture has to start incrementally, and needs to be flexible. Keep experimenting, try new things and make sure that everything you learn along the way influences your next campaign. The goal is to get your team excited, with the added bonus of strengthening your relationship with supporters. A great example of this can be seen with UK charity Marie Curie, who have encouraged its team to champion data by appointing a dedicated fundraising monitoring and evaluation officer.