Why Your Nonprofit Must Collect These 3 Data Types

I have memories from when I was young of my parents sending monthly donations to a nonprofit that sponsored a child in a developing country. I also remember occasionally ripping open and peeking at my parents’ mail (oops!) hoping to find photos or updates about that little child in Rwanda. I would instead find a list of questions that the nonprofit requested my parents answer. Huh?! Disappointed, I would toss it aside before plopping down in front of the TV for the rest of the night.

Thankfully, data collection in today’s digital age has become more sophisticated and non-intrusive with the use of nonprofit software like DonorEngine. The trouble is, though 90% of nonprofits are collecting data, 49% of them don’t know how their data is being collected… and only 5% use data to inform every decision they make (Nonprofit Hub study, 2018). 

Every interaction with your nonprofit’s supporters is an opportunity to collect valuable information — the question is, what data is valuable and why?

Personal Information

Things like your donor’s age, address/location, income, education, familial relations, and hobbies/interests are all good to have in your database for when you are deciding which of your donors would most resonate with certain marketing materials. The more data segmentation you have access to, the more personalized and relevant your communications will be for each donor, such as:

Age: Younger donors will respond better to text-to-give as well as social media campaigns, while older donors are more likely to respond to direct mail and email.

Familial Relations: Donors with young children are more likely to be attracted to family friendly fundraising events like game nights and talent shows. In contrast, single donors may be more interested in an elegant gala that extends well into the night.

Hobbies/Interests: Are your donors fitness freaks? Dog lovers? Foodie fanatics? Insights into their hobbies and interests is an excellent piece of data to consider when brainstorming what your nonprofit’s upcoming fundraiser should be.

Potential Marketing Data

This could include any number of seemingly infinite variations of donor behaviours. Sounds like a completely frustrating and time-consuming headache of information to sift through? It doesn’t have to be! An all-in-one data collection software like DonorEngine makes it easy to automatically store records on:

Every donation (what it was for and how much was given)
The frequency of donations, how often, around which events or campaigns
How long an individual has been a donor
Which communications they’ve received, promos, thank you letters
Every single change made by every single user (backed up by an audit log)

Functional Data

When was this donor’s record adjusted? Why are there duplicates of this other donor? Did anyone make sure that thank you letter got sent to that donor?!

If these questions sound dreadfully familiar to you, don’t worry. These frustrations are actually pretty common. One of the most frequent complaints from nonprofits is poor data hygiene, with 46% of employees complaining that their data is disorganized and kept in more than one place (Nonprofit Hub study, 2018).

When your donor management software automatically updates your records for changes to things like donors’ addresses and contact information, this functional data stops being an "oh dear god don’t make me sort through this mess today” problem for your employees. Instead of spending all day juggling spreadsheets and comparing data silos, they have the time to pursue more meaningful work that is more productive to furthering your organization’s mission.

Every nonprofit in 2019 should be collecting these 3 types of data. By making the collection and retrieval process automatic, this data becomes an indispensable resource for your organization! Data insights also save your company time in the long run by informing your decisions on how to streamline your fundraising processes, increase donor retention, and improve the donor’s overall experience.


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Donor Relations Jul 23, 2019, 12:00 AM

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