We look at how small charities are sitting on a gold mine of data that has the potential to transform fundraising
The collection and analysis of data can be a valuable tool in helping charities respond to the needs of their users and take the guesswork out of fundraising. But it can sometimes feel like it isn’t a level playing field – you’ve got big charities with budgets and staff to play with on one end and small charities on the other, for whom access to the world of data can seem like a privilege that isn’t theirs.
The Institute of Fundraising’s report ’What’s data got to do with it: a beginners guide to data’ puts it this way: “For many charities, the time and resources needed to collect, analyse and implement data as part of the decision-making process can seem like an unaffordable luxury...It may seem overwhelming to fundraisers to deal with the sheer amount of data that exists if they feel they or their team lack the knowledge they need to get started.”
Smaller charities have often felt left behind in many areas of digital, and fundraising data is no exception. But there are a few myths we’d like to set straight and one is that small charity are somehow cut off from the ’data elite’ or that data is something they should be afraid of.
Yes, being able to effectively use data to achieve better outcomes from your fundraising efforts takes time, but there is help and support to be found. And the rewards are even bigger for small charities where small changes can make a big difference to outcomes.
Using data in fundraising can:
All of the above can empower a small charity to make better decisions that help them achieve better outcomes from their fundraising efforts.
Small charities have a unique opportunity in that effective use of data can make stretched resources go further. According to the most recent Charity Digital Skills report, for example, 72% of charities say that making better use of data will help them save money and time.
Small charities also have the advantage of being freer to experiment and break things than a larger organisation that might be caught up in process or suffering from siloed teams or data trapped in too many different places to count. It’s likely you have access to more valuable data than you think.
It’s amazing how much data even the smallest charity deals with on a daily basis. It doesn’t need to be complicated at first and it’s all potentially valuable. The best place to start is to focus in on what data you have access to or could easily collect, such as on:
A common first step is to segment your existing donor database by the actions they’ve taken. This is usually by the frequency, recently and amounts they give – just by taking this action, you’re on the way to understanding more about how best to ask them again, how much to ask for and how often.
Google Analytics is a completely free web analytics tool provided by Google that anyone with a website can use to automatically pull in stats on their website’s performance, to track and measure data on traffic and website visitors.
Even today’s most basic email marketing platforms can give charities the opportunity to collect data on open-rates and click-through rates that give you an idea of who is responding to your communication efforts and what’s working.
And the switch from in-person to virtual events provides an opportunity to capture lots of data on supporters and donors and potential leads, through the registration process. Demographic data such as age, gender, and location can tell charities a lot about how to tailor their marketing and communications, and many virtual events platforms also have features for real-time polling and surveys.
Our 2019 video from charity consultants Superhighways explained a few more data capture ’quick wins’ and how small charities can collect valuable information at every supporter touchpoint using free and low-cost tools.
At some point in your data collection and analysis journey, it’s not uncommon to come up against a skills barrier. The key is not being afraid to ask for outside help, as there is no shortage of it out there in the form of data science volunteers.
A good first step is The Data Maturity Assessment - a free tool launched by third sector data support organisation Data Orchard, which charities can use to assess what stage they are at in their data journey, where they need to improve, and how they compare to the sector.
Once charities are serious about improving with data, whether it’s building an over-arching strategy or working on specific data analytics projects, help is available from sector experts like Data Orchard and DataKind UK, who can provide help on a specific project, or support charities as they put together an over-arching strategy for their data use.