Jul 08 2019

Improve Fundraising with Data-Driven Analytics for Nonprofits

When it comes to campaigns, a lack of data can lead to a lack of dollars.

Pop quiz: On average, what sort of return can nonprofit organizations expect to see when they market via Facebook? 

If you answered, “I have no idea,” you’re not alone. 

In “Navigating the Unknown,” a 2019 fundraising report from NTEN, Care2 and hic, one nonprofit reported that it was seeing an 18 to 1 ROI from Facebook marketing. No other organization was able to provide accurate numbers. 

“We received an overwhelming amount of ‘I don’t know’ answers,” the report’s authors write. “The data we did receive was incomplete and wildly inconsistent.”

The findings stress the importance of training staff in analytics. 

“Hearing that a Facebook spend has ‘unknown’ revenue results is concerning,” the report states. “How can anyone justify spending thousands of dollars and not having any concrete results to take away? Our recommendation: Invest in the set up and training of your staff in analytics NOW. Get started today by putting your staff into the ‘view only’ mode. Show them they can compare year-over-year results and it could trigger their inner competitive self.” 

Follow these steps to make your nonprofit organization more data-driven: 

Think of Data as a Strategic Asset

According to VolunteerHub, a volunteer management solutions vendor, the first step to becoming a data-driven nonprofit is to acknowledge data as a strategic asset. Nonprofit leaders should consider how data can provide insights into factors including: 

  • How their audience is engaging with their online content
  • The demographics of their online audience
  • The ROI of individual fundraiser events 

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Discover why digital transformation starts with the data center.

Make Data Transparent and Accessible

Employees should have access to donor-centered metrics, internal financial data and other information that could give them better insight on how to improve fundraising. During this step, nonprofit leaders may seek out tools that create dashboards where staffers can track historical data, as well as begin holding regular review meetings where important metrics are discussed. 

Distinguish Between "Vanity" Goals and Measurable Goals

Nonprofit leaders need to know what they’re trying to achieve with data initiatives. It’s easy to perceive “likes” and “shares” as indicators of success, but experts say leaders need to distinguish between so-called “vanity” metrics and those that actually measure tangible effects. 

One example of a vanity metric is the number of “likes” a nonprofit receives after posting a video to Facebook. While this metric could be a gauge of awareness or even social sentiment, it doesn’t provide any insight into whether people shared the video or how much time they spent watching it. 

The average amount of time people spent watching the video, however, is an actionable metric, because it can inform future efforts. For example, if the average person only watched half of the video, the nonprofit may make its next video half as long to aim for maximum audience engagement.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: See how data analytics can benefit nonprofits.

Create a Data-Friendly Culture 

Data-oriented hiring doesn’t necessarily mean bringing in a team of trained data scientists. But new employees should buy into the idea that the thoughtful use of analytics is important to the organization’s success. Organizations should build a culture that encourages data-driven decision-making, with leaders demanding quantitative analysis to back up assertions and rewarding staff for testing out hypotheses before implementing new initiatives.

Getty Images / Laurence Dutton

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