by: Katie Lord
I am getting ready to celebrate my 12th year in the sector as a fundraiser, strategist and consultant so it is fair to say that I have seen my fair share of fundraising “trends” or “fads”. Some of those fads and trends turned into permanent tools that are now commonplace such as Facebook fundraising, text to give campaigns and the rise of big data analytics.
I used to believe that the nonprofit sector was three to five years behind the business sector and was slow to adopt new technology, marketing and sales (Yes, I said sales) techniques. It can sometimes feel like innovation in the nonprofit sector is like turning the Titanic – slow and sometimes disastrous if we are too late to adapt. Recently, I have begun to change my beliefs due to some advances in data and specifically, emotional data.
One trend that seems to be gaining traction (thankfully!) is donor segmentation and cultivation. This is usually assisted with the integration of big donor data used to try to predict a donor’s future behavior based on past behavior. This type of data usage is becoming common place and is used by organizational leadership, donor development and marketing people. An example of this data usage is how Amazon reminds me to reorder a product or serves me up with suggestion of books, toys for my kiddo, or clothes based on my past purchases…and I LOVE it! This is a useful tactic to be sure, but it also has its flaws. The recommendations are only made on past behavior or a guess of potential future behavior. Amazon has no idea “why” I actually purchased anything. The “why” is the most important piece of information because it is the best way to figure out what I am most likely to purchase in the future, without the expense and wasted time of guessing.
A nonprofit example of big data usage is when I get donation appeals from animal shelters that are cat related. My data history will tell them that I have given to shelters in the past but what they don’t know is that I am a dog person. I have never had a cat nor do I have a desire to own a cat – I’m not a cat person. When I get an appeal from a cat campaign the shelter is actually decreasing their opportunity to solicit a donation from me. If they really knew me they would know to stick with only dogs, I’m a huge sucker.
What is the best way to really know what your donors are thinking? ASK….and I don’t mean while you are asking for the gift. What if there was a way that you could connect with your donors on the deepest of levels by knowing what specifically emotionally resonates with them about your mission or programs?
Enter Proof Positioning. When I first saw what Proof was doing for the business and nonprofit sector I was blown away. For years I have worked with donor data and tools such as prospect research and database analytics tools for organizations but there was always one significant limitation to all of these tools. There is no explanation of “Why.” Why did donors give? Why did they stop? Why is attendance to events down? What is the differentiator that donors are using to make the decision? As organizations we know our “why” front and back…but how do our donors talk about us behind our back?
I joined Proof seven months ago because I believed that Proof could provide fundraisers with one of the most powerful and useful tools for nonprofit fundraisers, marketers and prospect researchers in existence. Through using donor surveys and a proprietary set of algorithms, Proof is able to isolate your donor’s emotional responses to your organization’s key differentiators, unique value propositions and storytelling elements.
Proof helps your organization identify your most burning questions. Questions that if you knew the answers you could create stronger donor, volunteer and constituent relationships based on the right messages, using the right mediums at the right time. What’s a burning question? Here are a few examples:
Which messages are most emotionally resonant to get donors to engage?
How do we get existing donors to donate more?
How do we get people to donate for the first time?
What do our donors and potential donors think of us and how do they talk about us behind our backs?
Which communication mediums should we be using to maximize effectiveness and minimize waste?
How can we convert volunteers into donors?
We all have hypotheses and guesses as to the answers to these questions yet the possible variables that effect these questions are almost infinite. With the limited staff and job variance in most nonprofits it simply isn’t possible to adequately identify, analyze and discern the answers to these most burning questions. While many leaders have great instincts, it can be hard to isolate variables and with the rise of data informed decision making, why not do a gut check and make sure you are pointing in the right direction?
With Emotional Data collection you can find the answers to your questions with mathematical precisions that uncover your most effective path forward. Emotional data also provides agility because it doesn’t rely on the accuracy of your current database, it can actually inform and update your segmentations. Finally, unlike big data, all you need are burning questions, a desire to create more meaningful connections and 45 days!
There is no better way to build a strong and lasting relationship with your donors and constituents than to understand and speak to their “why.” You can achieve this by providing relevant, timely and targeted content informed by emotional data. This is the future of fundraising.
How do you currently segment and cultivate your donors? Do you know “why” they engage with you? What’s a Burning Question you have?