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4 Tips for Using Data to Improve Fundraising Campaigns

The rise of data analytics and machine learning in the nonprofit sector has changed the fundraising game. Nonprofits no longer have to spend hours manually sifting through data points and drafting reports. New AI tools and other innovative fundraising technologies produce data-driven insights that let fundraising professionals work smarter, not harder.

If your organization is interested in getting more involved in data analytics, it’s important to build your data fundraising strategy thoughtfully. While there are plenty of tools and strategies to consider, you can boost your ROI by finding solutions that allow you to leverage your unique data set and generate personalized insights.

With that in mind, this guide will walk through four tips for using data to improve your fundraising campaigns: 

  1. Keep your data organized and robust.
  2. Find AI fundraising tools that are tailored to your nonprofit’s data.
  3. Use data to personalize your outreach.
  4. Learn from past fundraising campaigns.

A robust data analytics strategy helps your nonprofit better appeal to its supporters and show potential donors that your organization prioritizes modern solutions.

1. Keep your data organized and robust.

Before you can start using your data to improve fundraising campaigns, make sure your information is as accurate and complete as possible.

Data analytics and AI fundraising tools rely on your nonprofit’s internal database, so if you’re missing any crucial data or if there are too many errors, you might not be able to gather as many useful insights. 

Use these key strategies to keep your nonprofit’s database in order: 

  • Maintain database hygiene. Database management and hygiene is the process of keeping your nonprofit’s data clean by continually refreshing and enhancing it. Start by auditing your database to identify any missing, irrelevant, duplicate, or inaccurate information. Resolve errors and establish processes for standardized data entry. For example, you might set clear guidelines for your team on how to enter home addresses or phone numbers. 
  • Conduct data appends as needed. A data append is the process of adding missing data to your internal records using third-party sources. According to NPOInfo, you can append a wide array of data, including contact information, demographic data, geographic data, and wealth-screening information.

With clean and comprehensive data, your nonprofit can create more targeted marketing campaigns that reach the right audiences. For example, by appending geographic data, you can identify supporters who live nearby and might be interested in attending in-person events. Keeping your database clean can boost your direct mail ROI by ensuring letters reach the correct home addresses.

2. Find AI fundraising tools tailored to your nonprofit’s data. 

AI-powered fundraising tools are on the rise, but not all these solutions are made equally. Some AI fundraising solutions use general nonprofit sector data to help create models, but the most useful tools are the ones that learn from your nonprofit’s unique dataset.

You can use your nonprofit’s records to build predictive models tailored to your target audience and goals. These analytics tools will help you: 

AI fundraising tools can identify hidden potential within your donor base, helping you know which prospects to prioritize. This allows you to spend more time stewarding supporters with the highest likelihood of giving.

3. Use data to personalize your outreach.

Data analytics and AI tools can also help tailor your supporter outreach to create more engaging marketing campaigns. Personalized messaging helps your organization stand out from similar causes and develop deeper, more genuine connections with donors. 

With accurate data, you can personalize the following elements of your supporter engagement strategy:

  • Messages. Some supporters may respond better to updates from your nonprofit’s executive director, while others would like to hear from a fellow donor about why they choose to give. Some may want frequent news about your volunteer program, while others are more interested in your legislative advocacy efforts. 
  • Communication platforms. One donor may enjoy seeing letters in their mailbox from your nonprofit, while another may appreciate an Instagram shoutout. Supporters’ preferred communication methods can run the gamut, from email to social media, direct mail, and phone calls. Keep track of supporters’ preferences in your donor management system to reach out to them using platforms they’re most likely to engage with. 
  • Ask amounts. Sending a major donor a $20 donation request for your upcoming annual giving campaign might come off a little odd, as would asking for $25,000 from a donor who has never given more than $100. When you maintain accurate data about donors’ giving capacities and past gift amounts, you can more easily determine how much to request from each prospect. 

You can use this data to personalize individual donor interactions, such as the occasional email or in-person meeting. However, creating individualized messages for every donor can be a time-consuming process. So, you can also use data to build donor segments based on shared characteristics.

For example, you might create groups for major donors, mid-tier donors, and small donors and set fundraising goals for each segment. Or, you might create groups based on the types of messages donors are most interested in. You can develop several different messages and send tailored content to each group. 

4. Learn from past fundraising campaigns.

Gathering data and assessing metrics from past campaigns can help you identify successes and challenges with your strategy. Then, you can adjust your future approach to build on your strengths and mitigate weaknesses.

For example, if your organization regularly conducts online fundraisers, BWF’s digital fundraising guide recommends tracking and reporting on metrics like: 

  • Email open rates and click-through rates
  • Social media engagement metrics, such as follower counts or impressions
  • Website time on page and bounce rate
  • Donor demographics
  • Donation page conversions

Using this data, you can determine which digital marketing platforms and strategies are most effective for engaging supporters during your fundraising campaigns. For example, perhaps your email open rates are high, but your click-through rates are declining. You can adjust the wording on your email call-to-action buttons to see which versions drive the most traffic to your website. 

In addition, track donor engagement metrics such as donor retention, donor upgrades, and donor recapture throughout all campaigns. These metrics will help you assess the impact of your prospect development strategies and see which donor groups require more dedicated stewardship. 

New data strategies and AI tools are emerging every day. With the right data hygiene procedures and machine learning tools that work with your organization’s unique data, your nonprofit will be well-positioned to take advantage of the latest fundraising innovations. 

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

James Barnard, Associate Managing Vice President of Annual Giving and Digital Marketing, is an integral part of the team at the global fundraising consultancy BWF. He helps nonprofit clients develop digital strategies for fundraising and marketing. James has been active in CASE for a number of years, participating as a conference speaker and CASE District II board member.

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