The State of Data: Perceptions and Realities

There’s a lot of movement in both for profit and nonprofit organizations. Trends across all sectors demand that institutions must go digital in order to survive and grow. This has led to the collection of (at times) massive amounts of data which these companies can use to their advantage. These datasets, in turn, have become the cornerstone for implementing the more forward thinking and innovative strategies you see amongst the most successful companies in the world.

Businesses have always been collecting information on their customers and prospects. The difference today is the rate and quantity of information that is attainable. With several automation services in place, and the option to purchase augmented datasets or behavioural data on the table, companies may find themselves with more information than they know what to do with, and data, rather quickly, multiplies to the point of becoming unmanageable.

As nonprofits evolve from more traditional methods to implementing a data-driven strategy, they require certain tools necessary to manage their databases similar to their for-profit counterparts; however, many of them are still under the impression that they may not be in a place for the kind of digital advancement they’re hoping to achieve.

Industry leaders realize that while striving for better data is important, striving for perfect data is impossible.

As these leading charities in the world go completely digital, discussions are being revolved around how to use their data to target and personalize their fundraising. They’re the ones optimizing their efforts because they realize that execution makes up a larger part of success than database refinement.

The hard truth is, data is just data. From organization to organization, it’s in the same condition as everyone else's.

That being said, there is still an obvious divide in thought amongst the charitable sector. This is best illustrated by two recent conversations with high ranking advancement officers at their respected institutions:

Charity A:

We have invested in analytics solutions and several other consultants to identify better prospects and help us with our giving, but I still feel our data is at a C- grade. However, we realize we’re not going to get anywhere by waiting around.


Charity B:

We are in no position to advance the state of our analytics because the condition of our data is too poor.

The most striking thing about these two statements is that both believed their database should be in better condition and wished to improve the insights they gained from it. One realized, however, that a proactive approach is the best (and often times, only) route for growth. Despite the perception that their database is still in the C-grade range, they understand, as highlighted above, execution makes up a larger part of success than database refinement.

The outcome of these two examples? The charity that understood that continued action plays a pivotal role in their success (Charity A) was able to identify ~45,000 major gift prospects, while Charity B is still struggling to look past their “insufficient email” lists and are surprised when one of their constituents becomes a major donor.

The reason that these data-driven trail blazers appear to be so innovative is because they recognize that to stay ahead they must always keep moving. They’re the ones on the frontline causing a disruption in the industry, and they’re the ones being talked about at AFP Congress and CASE conferences everywhere. With these data-driven approaches yielding high-growth results for charities across America, it’s quickly becoming a hot topic.

Moral of the story, leading charities never stop. In fact, the only real way to improve a database is to start using it and keep using it.

Technology like Fundmetric optimizes the data nonprofits have in whatever condition it is in, providing even deeper insights than the example charity was able to uncover above.

Bio: Kristopher has over 18 years of marketing experience in both Canada and the USA and 8 years experience in fundraising for Canadian charities. With an emphasis on multi-channel direct marketing, Kristopher has managed over $7 million dollars in annual donations integrating direct mail, digital including predictive modelling, face-to-face and telemarketing strategies to drive growth and lifelong donor journeys. 

“The concept of digital fundraising today must include predictive modelling/machine learning. Including machine learning in the mix ensures that you’re driving down your cost of funds raised while ensuring that no donor feels overlooked because you’re providing meaningful, personalized stewardship touch points at the right time in their donor journey.”
-Kristopher Gallub, Fundmetric Fundraising Liaison