Power Up Donor Relationships in 2021: Take a Fresh Look at Your Data

 In Constituent Management & Engagement, Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Data Analysis and Reporting, Information Strategy, Knowledge Management, Outsourced CRM Data Management

Phew, you’ve made it through your organization’s year-end giving! Now what? How will you power up donor relationships in 2021 and ensure you aren’t leaving any fundraising opportunity on the table?

As the flurry of year-end processing calms down, now is a great time to review your data and begin thinking about your organizational and data strategy for the upcoming year. We understand that you may want to take a break and forget all about the long days and countless data points… but hear us out.

As your organization catches its breath after a busy time (not to mention a challenging year), now is the moment to make a fresh start to how your organization manages donor data. The beginning of the year is a natural time to look at your data from a donor’s perspective. What can you glean from your data that helps you nurture behavior, including giving, throughout the calendar year? There is a virtuous cycle in 1) donors feeling like you are nurturing how and when they like to engage and 2) your organization continuing to reinforce and enhance that behavior.

So, go into 2021 right: start this year by reviewing your constituents’ behavior to reveal giving habits and preferences you can use to improve your strategy. Analyze your data, and let it tell the story of how to deepen your relationships with your donors.

If you don’t have the data to understand habits and preferences, this is the time to look at the strategies, operations, processes, and technology you need to capture and act on high-quality data. Many times, the data can be the canary in the coalmine—if the data isn’t good, it means other changes are needed. This assessment will enable staff to prepare for strategic milestones, budgeting efforts, and a clear understanding of when to engage appropriately with donors.

What to focus on to power up donor relationships in 2021

What can you learn about online giving trends?

For many organizations, online giving is viewed as simply the channel by which someone gives. But, looking at online giving as a preference—and understanding how online giving may be instructive on what motivates your donors—can help you better engage. Online giving, for most organizations, involves looking at digital engagement patterns, in conjunction with campaign performance, alongside deeper constituent engagement trends. This is the time to create a more complete picture and it may involve engaging your marketing and communications colleagues.

High-performing organizations understand that you may be able to construct online giving in ways that allow for testing just-in-time messaging and highly tailored asks. The data that you already have may contain significant information that helps create a fresh approach to donor engagement this year.

What is your donors’ motivation to give?

So many organizations have an anecdotal understanding of what motivates constituents to give, but your data should complete and validate that understanding. Many organizations, especially when talking about donors, can’t articulate the motivation of donors beyond “They believe in our mission.” While that is certainly true, what are the motivations of sustaining donors? What are the motivations of first-time donors? What are the motivations are those who you’ve “known” for years, but finally start donating?

How bad is your data, especially after the crush of year-end giving?

Give your data a good scrub. The frenzy of year-end giving is the prime opportunity to engage new donors and familiar partners through online giving. As records are processed, staff could inadvertently miss a duplicate record, a misspelling, or forget to link a gift to the intending tribute or fund. Reviewing the data while it’s fresh in your head will benefit segmentation and reporting throughout the year.

Now is the time to add or edit your organizational coding to the appropriate records. We have all been guilty of pulling lists and then manipulating spreadsheets later to get the segmentation perfect. Taking the time to set your CRM up in an appropriate way will save you time at next year-end.

Can you reengage lapsed donors?

Who “should have” given, but didn’t? We’re all programmed to think about our habits—who can you convince to keep up their habit of support? During your review of donor behavior, look at how your current strategic plan aligns with those lapsed donor behaviors. Have you stopped personalizing appeals to donors below a giving level? Have your cornerstone events changed—impacting your donor’s call to action or drive to the mission—and changing their giving? Adjustments in your organization’s behavior may impact your donor behavior. Your focus should be on how to reconnect with them—showcasing the value of a mutual relationship, and refreshing their understanding of how their support is impactful.

Should you drop some donors?

During your review of a lapsed donor’s interactions, have an honest conversation about the possibility of reengagement. Is this donor coming back? There is ample research that it’s nearly impossible to actively reengage lapsed donors beyond a certain period.

Build suggests archiving the lapsed donor record to reduce the “costs” of managing the record. Those costs range from the tangible costs associated with data storage to the indirect costs of the clutter. This may be controversial to many, but someone who donated for three consecutive years but last gave seven years ago is unlikely to reengage. Even if they do reengage, is it really a big deal if you must recreate their records?

What data is truly useful for your organization?

We like to think of data in two ways; interesting versus useful. What data are your collecting that is merely interesting, but doesn’t inform future decisions? Oftentimes, organizations fail to draw that distinction and figure out what is most useful for their organization. This can lead to resources being expended to collect data that doesn’t really move the needle, and a cluttered data landscape.

Do you need a fresh set of eyes on your data, and its potential to help power up donor relationships?

Build Consulting helps organizations identify, manage, and act upon high-quality donor data. Often, this involves helping the organization contextualize their data to create a unique understanding of its strategic value. Reach out to us to start a conversation about how we can help.

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