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How to get started with data in fundraising


If you’re a fundraiser that’s daunted by data you may be surprised how much you’re already using it. Every time you segment your database, draft your budget forecast, or analyse a campaign to see if it can be saved with a tweak (or it’s time to let go), you’re using data. Data in fundraising is using the statistics and insights available to you, not intuition or feeling, to make decisions. It takes the guesswork out of strategy planning and decision making so you can confidently pitch ideas and make plans knowing insight is on your side. But because of the messaging around ‘data’ and the association with ‘geeky’, some fundraisers feel data is beyond their roles or capabilities.

It’s time to rethink our approach to data in fundraising so everyone feels like a pro, even if Excel makes you break out in a worried sweat. When we use data we’re more equipped to make better decisions for our strategy, supporters and team; important in a year of more uncertainty!

During my time as a Face-to-Face Manager for a small local charity, we’d use data as much as we could to make sure the team were in the best locations at the right time. If a patch is consistently quiet in the first week of August, why would we head there again? Reviewing our data and what it told us about the area and the people within it were crucial for the success of a fast-paced team that needed to make quick choices – and pivot even quicker if the situation changes.

Here’s my top tips on how you can get started with growing your confidence with data-driven fundraising.

Invest in a good CRM – and use it!

If you have a large supporter base or are planning to build one, get a decent CRM (constituent relationship management software). It will save you time and money on manual analysis, will make light work of creating reports and will allow you to communicate with your donors in the right way and at the right time. A good CRM will be able to integrate with other tools, be easy to use, and will provide a comprehensive overview of the supporters within it. Spreadsheets don’t come close to being able to manage the level of detail and frequent use of a good CRM and mistakes will (and do) happen. And when the CRM is ready to use, make sure it’s used all the time – by everyone.

Be aware of data pitfalls

If we have a good idea that we’re passionate about, it’s very easy to analyse data in a way that will prove that we’re right. This is called ‘confirmation bias’ and is something you need to be mindful of from day one to keep yourself and team in check. Without this awareness we lack the opportunity for innovation and growth – a key focus for charities in 2021!

Another mistake is to scatter your data across multiple platforms which makes things messy, complicated, and leads to errors or false data. Trello and Slack are great for swift communication but remember to set up your integrations so they’re talking to each other all of the time.

Think about data in everything you do

Every conversation with a supporter or online campaign can provide an insight as to what your audience is thinking or feeling. Without this additional insight we have an incomplete picture of our donors. Are you tracking and measuring campaigns online? Do you ask for feedback or survey supporters regularly?

If not, start now and use what you find alongside your CRM insights to drive your next fundraising decisions.

Network with other data ‘non-geeks’

The best way to get comfortable with a new way of working is to do it with others!

On 13th May 2021, Fundraising Everywhere is hosting the very first Data Slam Virtual Conference dedicated to supporting people like you to get confident with data. With sessions on data for small charities, how to use inclusive data, and humanising AI, there’s something for everyone. And if you’re already a data pro, expert speakers will be doing a deep dive into data in Room 1 from 2pm BST.

Register for Data Slam before 6th May to receive your early-bird discount and free download session.



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Candid launches ‘U.S. social sector’ dashboard | Philanthropy news



Candid has launched a U.S. Social Sector Dashboard, a free resource designed to “demystify” the sector by providing data on its scope, constraints, and potential.

Developed with funding from Amazon Web Services and Vanguard Charitable, the dashboard offers key data and insights about the makeup and impact of civil society, including previously unreleased statistics on the racial composition of leaders and funding flows to charities. According to the dashboard, the social sector, which employs 12.5 million people, comprises more than 1.81 million nonprofit organizations: 501(c)(3) charitable organizations (80 percent), which include public charities (73 percent) and private or community foundations (7 percent); 501(c)(4) advocacy and social welfare groups (4 percent); 501(c)(6) business associations (4 percent); 501(c)(7) social and recreation clubs (3 percent); labor unions and other 501(c)(5) groups (3 percent); and fraternal societies categorized as 501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) organizations (2 percent).

According to the dashboard, religious organizations currently make up 18 percent of public charities, followed by those focused on human services (17 percent), community and economic development (15 percent), education (14 percent), sports and recreation (8 percent), arts and culture (7 percent), philanthropy and nonprofit management (7 percent), health (7 percent), and the environment and animal welfare (4 percent). In terms of funding flow, in 2018 public charities received $292 billion in contributions from individuals, $76 billion from foundations, $40 billion from bequests, and $20 billion from corporations; $174 billion in government support; and $1.6 trillion in earned income.

And among reporting nonprofits, 60 percent of CEOs identified as white, 10 percent as Black, 5 percent as Latinx, 3 percent as Asian/AAPI, 1 percent as Native American/Indigenous, 3 percent as multiracial/multiethnic, and 1 percent as additional ethnicities, while 17 percent did not disclose. Among board members, 66 percent were white, 15 percent Black, 7 percent Latinx, 5 percent Asian/AAPI, 1 percent Native American/Indigenous, 2 percent multiracial/multiethnic, and 0.4 percent additional ethnicities, while 4 percent did not disclose.

“Candid exists to get people the information they need about the social sector to do good. Many of our tools focus on one organization, one grant, or one issue at a time; that kind of focus can be critical for decision makers,” said Candid executive vice president Jacob Harold. “This new dashboard builds on that focus by offering a fuller picture of the social sector as a whole. We hope that this tool will help people build a better understanding of the nonprofit and philanthropic ecosystem and its central role in our society.”

(Photo credit: GettyImages/Prostock Studio)



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UW–Madison receives $20 million for Letters & Science building | Philanthropy news



The University of Wisconsin–Madison has announced a $20 million lead gift from brothers and alumni Jeff Levy (’72) and Marv Levy (’68, JD ’71) in support of a new academic building in the College of Letters & Science.

Construction on Irving and Dorothy Levy Hall, named for the parents of Jeff and Marv, is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025. Once complete, the building will establish a unified home for the Department of History and nine other L&S academic departments, programs, and centers that currently are spread across eight facilities on campus. The five-story building will feature nineteen classrooms as well as a space where students can gather and interact informally with each other and their instructors to maximize collaboration.

The Levy brothers own and operate Phillips Distributing Corporation in Madison. Their commitment was contingent upon the Wisconsin state legislature and governor including the project in the 2021-23 state budget with $60 million in state support, which occurred earlier this year.

“We envision this vital new facility as a highly collaborative and state-of-the-art learning environment for all,” said College of Letters & Science dean Eric Wilcots. “We are immensely grateful to the Levy family for their support of this vision. Our students deserve classroom space that enhances interactive learning and engagement through cutting-edge technology. They also deserve a building that inspires, rather than intimidates. The Levy family’s gift will reverberate through future generations, touching many lives.”

“We are proud to help make this building a reality. We hope it will be a central educational location for the undergraduate experience at UW-Madison,” said Marv Levy. “Our hope is that by honoring our family legacy of charitable giving with this gift, we can offer to future generations some of the opportunity that the UW has provided us.”



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U.S. nonprofit sector uneven in impact and recovery, report finds | Philanthropy news



While nonprofits have contributed significantly to U.S. society and economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of the sector is uneven in both impact and recovery, a new report from Independent Sector finds.

Based on aggregated survey and research data from multiple sources in four categories — financial resources, human capital, governance and trust, and public policy and advocacy — the second edition of the Health of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector (43 pages, PDF) found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic varied by subsector and organization size, with arts organizations and those that rely on fees for service hit especially hard. Yet, even as 40 percent of nonprofits saw declines in total revenue and all subsectors except social services saw drops in gross output, the sector contributed 5.9 percent of GDP in 2020 — up 0.4 percentage points from 2019. And while 57 percent of nonprofits cut overall expenses, 64 percent suspended services, 44 percent reduced the number of programs or services, and 47 percent reported serving fewer people in 2020, Independent Sector’s Trust in Civil Society survey found that, as of early 2021, 57 percent of surveyed Americans had received nonprofit services and 84 percent expressed confidence in the ability of nonprofits to strengthen American society, up 3 percentage points from 2020.

According to the report, the sector’s advocacy efforts in 2020 helped secure notable federal resources that served as financial lifelines to nonprofits, particularly through the Paycheck Protection Program, payroll tax credits, and temporary universal charitable deduction. In addition, a study by Nonprofit VOTE found that voter engagement efforts helped reach underrepresented communities and narrow participation gaps.

The report outlines recommendations in each category to strengthen the sector, including prioritizing flexible funding, developing a shared understanding of equitable financing, promoting evidence-based practices to close workforce diversity and equity gaps, building capacity of virtual volunteering, improving the quality and depth of metrics for equity and “healthy” governance, improving digital access and literacy, and establishing public policy advocacy as a core competency of nonprofit management and governance.

“We have much to do to build the nation we, as changemakers, dream of becoming,” wrote Independent Sector president and CEO Dan Cardinali in the report’s foreword. “What can galvanize us to greater positive action? It’s that the everlasting human qualities of resilience, kindness, and collaborating for collective progress do not fade easily. They are within our grasp every day, giving all of us hope and confidence. The health of our nation is the sum of the richness and diversity of our members and sectors working together, elevating dignity, honoring our differences, and building for the common good.”

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Regional Food Bank)



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