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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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One-third of donors directed half their giving to disaster relief | Philanthropy news



Last year, 37 percent of American donors gave half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts, and 64 percent gave to a charity they had never supported before, a survey commissioned by Vanguard Charitable finds.

Conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, the survey of more than 1,300 American donors found that the top reasons American donors gave to disaster relief included wanting to assist those impacted by humanitarian crises (46 percent), feeling overwhelmed by a situation and wanting to help (33 percent), seeing charitable giving as the only way they could provide support (30 percent), and having a personal connection to the disaster/crisis (30 percent). The survey found that donors who contributed to disaster relief efforts gave more overall, meaning that disaster relief giving did not take away from, or occur in place of, ongoing giving. 

“From COVID-19 to a devastating humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, we’ve seen donors respond to disaster relief needs in inspiring and meaningful ways,” said Vanguard Charitable president Rebecca Moffett. “In fact, this data reflects that disaster relief support is an integral part of the giving landscape, often increasing total generosity as donors look to give when and where support is needed most. And because the money in donor-advised funds has already been set aside for charitable purposes, donations from DAFs tend to be more responsive in moments of crisis, and more resilient during moments of economic uncertainty.”

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Drazen Zigic)



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Trust in nonprofits fell slightly last year, survey finds | Philanthropy news



While there is room for U.S. institutions across the board to increase public trust, a majority of respondents believe nonprofits will do what is right for society, a survey conducted by Independent Sector finds. 

Conducted in February in partnership with Edelman Data & Intelligence, the third-annual Trust in Civil Society survey found that 56 percent of Americans said they trust nonprofits, down 3 percentage points from the 2020 benchmark study (59 percent). Trust in philanthropy edged down from 36 percent to 34 percent during the same period. According to the survey, financial well-being and education are major drivers of trust, and trust of nonprofits among women fell during the pandemic.

Given the findings, Independent Sector recommended that nonprofits work to make greater progress to support and strengthen the country, for example by leveraging trust in the social sector to strengthen U.S. democracy, deepening engagement with communities and institutions, and upholding public expectations of government accountability.

“Increasing public trust of institutions and the social sector is a pressing issue for the U.S. We all benefit from strong public trust,” said Independent Sector president and CEO Daniel J. Cardinali. “Trust is the priceless currency for nonprofits, philanthropies, business charity programs, and all of us to build a healthy, equitable society. We see what happens when trust breaks. Our 2022 Independent Sector Trust in Civil Society report elevates important data and recommendations for conversations about how the social sector can engage more deeply and do better so everyone in our country thrives.” 

(Photo credit: Getty Images/SDI Productions)



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Digital, other channels of giving are expanding, study finds | Philanthropy news



Emerging trends in the United Kingdom and Brazil reveal an expansion of digital and other types of channels for giving, including online giving, crowdfunding, charity rounding up, and social impact publishing, a new research series from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI finds.

The research series, Digital for Good: A Global Study on Emerging Ways of Giving, builds on the school’s Global Philanthropy Environment Index and Global Philanthropy Tracker and will be released in phases over the next five months. The first two studies examine philanthropic engagement in Brazil and the UK prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with profiles of China, India, Kenya, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea to follow.

Based on an analysis of three case studies in Brazil, the first profile found that prominent emerging ways of giving include charity rounding up, crowdfunding, and social impact publishing, which involves the production of inspiring, revenue-producing editorial content. Donations collected through rounding up for charity via Arredondar increased from BRL1,091 in 2013 (equivalent to $590 in 2021, adjusted for inflation) to more than BRL1.6 million in 2020 (equivalent to $330,186 in 2021, adjusted for inflation). In addition, the study found that the most successful initiatives prioritized transparency and accountability in giving.

Based on an online survey of nearly 3,000 individuals in the UK, the profile found that prominent expanded methods of giving include online giving and crowdfunding. Among donors interviewed between May and July 2021, 60 percent reported that gifts they had made in the past year had been made online, with the most common way being through a third-party app. In addition, researchers found that 63 percent of people who used social media to request donations also made requests in person.

“The results of the first two country profiles suggest an evolution in giving practices and highlight a significant expansion of digital giving practices and peer-to-peer giving,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “While these findings are the first in a series, the documented growth in digital giving and shifting donor expectations in the UK and in Brazil reinforce existing evidence that digital practices can help democratize the practice of philanthropy. Digital innovation makes philanthropy accessible and fosters greater transparency and accountability for how gifts lead to impact.”

(Photo credit: Getty Images)



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