Annual Giving: Why ‘Who’ Means More Than ‘How Many’

18 08 2011

Today’s guest blogger is Cassie Hunt,  a colleague of mine at the firm.  Cassie is a leader in fundraising operations and annual giving, particularly in the area of using data to strengthen annual giving programs.

I once met that very rarest of development staff members: an annual giving director who hates data.  Anything involving spreadsheets, analysis and numbers in general make them break into a cold sweat.  Unfortunately, when running an annual giving program, this can be a significant handicap, though one that can be overcome once the value in analysis is understood.

The appropriate analysis and application of data can make or break an annual giving program.  To solicit the masses as annual giving programs do, you have to be able to use information to segment and evaluate your efforts.  To be truly effective, however, you really need to look beyond the basic data points to the next tier of information.  Most directors can report on their dollar and participation totals, cost-per-dollar-raised for mailings and phonathons, leadership giving numbers and retention rates, but leading programs around the country look not just at ‘how many’ or ‘how much’ but ‘who?’  Here are a few examples of when the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘how much’:

  • If we retain 75% of our donors overall, but only 15% of our first-time donors, how can we introduce more stewardship for that pool? Knowing the retention rate alone is not enough.
  • If we have a donor who has given online for ten years in a row, should we continue the expense of sending her direct mail and calling her in the phonathon? Knowing how many gifts came in online is not enough.
  • If we acquire 200 donors a year but they are all new graduates, how can we adjust our acquisition tactics to attract more older alumni?  Knowing we acquired 200 donors is not enough.
  • If a leadership annual giving officer makes her 200-visit goal, how do we make sure she is visiting the right people?  Knowing how many contact reports she wrote is not enough.

When you evaluate how your most recent fiscal year ended, look beyond the obvious numbers to what they are really saying.  Your data can be your greatest asset if you know how to interpret it and how it can guide you to better decisions and a more efficient and effective program.

Special thanks to Cassie for her contribution to the Marshall Art of Fundraising this week.  Managing data for annual giving is a critical skill that allows the development professional to maximize solicitation outcomes. Have a great week.

Good Luck! – Mark Marshall

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