August 5, 2008

Profiling Your Donors: What Data Should You Append?

Here is thoughtful article that discusses some of the most common external data acquisitions that Josh and I encounter in our work. While Austin does a fair job laying out three basic sources of external data, I wish to add some specific examples where they might be used, as well as some thoughts to consider.

External data acquisition can be a powerful tool for any organization—but like most tools at our disposal—it should be applied strategically. Instead of starting with data, start with some program goals:
  • Identify new major gift prospects
  • Increase the participation rate in the annual fund
  • Discover planned giving opportunities

Once a goal has been identified, review your database to determine which data points are present and which are missing in respect to your goals.

Using the example program goals from above, here are some data acquisition points to consider.

  • Identify new major gift prospects (Wealth/Capacity Screening)
  • Increase the participation rate in the annual fund (National Change of Address Screening)
  • Discover planned giving opportunities (Deceased or Age Overlay)

What is a lesson that can be learned from this? Be very thoughtful when acquiring external data, as it may have more limited applicability than you might think.

Lastly, a development shop should never let external data be the band-aid to record keeping and data entry problems. No one should have better information or a deeper understanding of your donors than you do.

Demographics—Who Are They?
What you should know about profiling your donors
by Don Austin

At some point, most nonprofits ask the question, "Who are my donors?" It seems intuitive that if you know the characteristics of your donors you can market to them more successfully.

Answering this question usually means, "profiling" your donors. While this might sound easy, the process is not always straightforward. Profiling involves, first, overlaying demographic and lifestyle data on your donor file. Second, in the profiling step, you will have to choose between two methods to develop a picture, or pictures, of your donors.

Before you decide to begin this process you should ask yourself how you will specifically use the information and how you will justify the cost. You might find that a simple overlay of donor age will suit your needs.

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Blogger Fudge said...

Thank you for this fabulous connection to an article describing appending data. I recently appended S&P 500 data to a gift file to see how the affluence of the country affected gift levels. That turned out to be helpful. -- Marianne Pelletier

February 5, 2009 at 10:48 AM  

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