Data is the New Bacon

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

When AC Fitzgerald conducts fundraising audits of nonprofits, our first piece of advice is to “lose your gut.”

That is, lose your gut instincts.

Too often, fundraisers decide on a course of action—whether holding an event or sending mail to prospects—by listening to their gut rather than using data analysis. Is that fundraising dinner really worthwhile? Are you retaining new donors at an optimal rate?

At the same time, there is hardly an industry in the world that is not exploring the uses of “big data” for decision-making. It is indeed the new “bacon.” Nonprofits need to embrace this as well.

The starting point for data analysis is clean data, and that means optimizing your database. A 2016 Blackbaud study determined that:

  • 17% of records in an average nonprofit database are un-mailable
  • More than 40% of records are missing phone numbers
  • More than 50% of records are missing email addresses

If you don’t have good quality data on your donors, it will be impossible to assess trends, predict future behavior, or map a course of action.

But don’t get overwhelmed! Below is how you can embark on your path to big data:

  1. Become a “data janitor.” Clean up your database and standardize how information is to be entered.
  2. Spend a few dollars to tailor your database so it works for your nonprofit.
  3. Prepare an internal instruction guide for entering data and invest time and money to train staff accordingly.
  4. Determine your best prospects and use the database tools to keep them front and center.
  5. Reap the results of your work as you target and communicate with your best donors and prospects.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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