4 Unexpected Ways to Leverage Your Donor Data

Guest blog By: Stephanie E. Saville, Guiding Force Consulting, LLC

Tracking every piece of data possible is all the rage these days – the days of artificial intelligence. Some will even argue that data has a higher value than actual currency. Hopefully by now your nonprofit organization has invested in a donor database, or customer relationship management (CRM) tool, to track donor data, interactions, and interests.

Now that you have started tracking data, a question we hear often is: “how will this information help us find more donors or increase our fundraising?” The underlying question I hear when asked this is nonprofit leaders wanting to know how to leverage the data to make data-driven decisions.

Most nonprofit leaders are familiar with the usual data points and how to adjust course based on their findings. Some of these data points include:

  • Number of new donors, total number of donors and number of donors by source
  • Average donation amount, appeal response rates and cost to raise a dollar
  • Donor retention rate, acquisition rate and year-over-year trends

If you’re not familiar, read our blog post called “What donor data should I be tracking?” for more information.

Once you have the basics down, now it’s time to leverage your data in a few unexpected ways. Exploring the strategies below will result in increased donations, more dedicated and passionate supporters, and provide clarity for sharing the impact of your mission.

  1. Surprise corporate sponsors with data that will actually impact their marketing goals

Too often fundraising professionals solicit corporate sponsors with the standard sponsorship proposal containing levels with a list of logo recognition opportunities and tickets.

What if you asked your corporate partners what their marketing goals were and provided data about your audience that would help them achieve their goals? Their interaction would transfer from a philanthropic/socially responsible gift to a true partnership with your nonprofit.

Many corporate donors are shifting away from event sponsorships and moving toward grant-style donations (nonprofits apply for program-specific funding and report results). The shift is in response to their interest in knowing what type of impact their gift is making in their community.

If nonprofit professionals want to retain and build unrestricted corporate sponsorship with their partners, then the focus needs to be on achieving mutual goals – corporate marketing and mission impact.


Use your donor data to identify your audience demographics, interests and behaviors. Then take that data and attach it to sponsor benefits that impact marketing objectives. For example, what percentage of your event attendees bid on luxury items in your silent and live auction and what is the average winning bid? This data provides insight into audience behaviors that may be appealing to a luxury-good corporate sponsor.


  1. Find “hidden gem” major donors in your database

Whether you’re looking to establish or grow your major gifts program, or just find a few lead donors for your next campaign, there are likely many “hidden gems” hiding in plain sight.

To find these major donor prospects, sort and review your data based on RFM. RFM stands for “recency,” “frequency,” and “monetary.” Give each section a rating based on a scale of 1 to 5, with a total of 15 being the greatest. Donors who’ve given in the past year, give often, and give large amounts (either in one gift or many small gifts), are typically a great place to start building long-term relationships.


There are many other tools to help qualify these prospects, but sorting your donor list based on RFM is the best way to quickly narrow down your pool of donors.


  1. Identify prospective board members

Most often the best donors are ones that have a passion for your organization’s mission and the ability to mobilize their network to take action. To find these individuals in your database, analyze which donors are engaging with program-specific content on your web site, in emails, responding to appeals with a strong mission component. As you’re tracking donor interests, also take a look at which donors are brining guests to events, hosting successful third party fundraisers, and volunteering with your organization.


The combination of engagement, advocacy, giving and volunteerism (all trackable data) is a great indicator of a potential new board member.


  1. Learn which programs/services your donors are most passionate about

Data tracking can go beyond donations and volunteerism. With so many robust email marketing tools accessible to nonprofits, your team can also track which email subject lines have the greatest open rates, which eNews articles get the most clicks, and what sources new subscribers are coming from.


Additionally, Google analytics can tell you what pages your guests are visiting, where they’re spending the most amount of their time, and which call-to-action buttons are being used. These are just two of many sources to collect data about your supporters.


Use this data to emphasize programs/services with the most interest in your appeals, social media content, and event planning to drive engagement and greater response rates.

The possibilities to leverage data to maximize your efforts are truly endless. Most often, the limitation of resources, expertise, and time are the biggest barriers to executing these strategies. Consider the following before diving into the entire list of strategies above:

  • Pick one strategy at a time to ease the burden of learning and execution
  • Ensure whatever strategies you chose to execute align with your overall goals. Don’t collect and analyze data for the sake of it.
  • Enlist the support of an outside consultant or contractor to identify strategies, set up infrastructure, train your staff, and/or execute the data analytics and reporting
  • Seek grant funding to cover technology investments and staff salaries or consultant fees

For more database solutions, tips and resources, visit www.GuidingForceConsulting.com.

Meet Stephanie:

Stephanie brings a passion for partnering with nonprofit leaders to adapt, create, and engage with their supporters. Her work focuses on bringing creative and synergistic solutions to her clients so they attract and retain life-long, passionate donors. With over 15 years in the industry, Stephanie specializes in the nitty-gritty details of donor database solutions, big picture fundraising strategies and board engagement campaigns.


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