A recent study found 26% of executive directors and development directors see data management as a current critical issue for their organization. This is up 9% from the year before.
I think the real number is a little higher. Regardless of the reason why it’s at 26%, many organizations of all sizes struggle with how to effectively and efficiently manage fundraising data.
Keeping good data and analyzing it regularly is critical for sustained fundraising success whether it’s an annual fund or capital campaign.
A few reasons why organizations struggle with data management and how to address them:
1. Not enough time: I recently heard a business owner talk about how difficult it was for him to hire a bookkeeper. It was the first person he hired not directly bringing in revenue to the business. Spending time and resources on data can feel the same way. There’s a lot of pressure to spend all of our time on what raises money and community awareness NOW. This is why I recommend all development plans incorporate at least one priority and supporting goals focued on fundraising operations. This allows the leadership staff and board members to better understand the “science” of fundraising and support efforts to improve the operations. If your current development plan doesn’t incorporate operational goals, identify what the most critical needs are. Then, have a conversation with leadership about how to modify the existing plans.
2. Don’t know where to start: Most organizations already have a donor management software. Is software the problem or are you not utilizing it as you should? A common mistake is searching for answers without knowing what the organization needs. Before you evaluate what you have and explore other options, create a clear and detailed list of what you expect from your software. Then, evaluate and shop around. I’m also a big believer that if you don’t enjoy using it, it won’t get used. Make sure the software is user-friendly, provides excellent customer service, and is something you won’t dread logging into. Many software companies know this and are making their product more polished and refined.
3. Metrics and reports: It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed with a database when clear metrics have not been identified and the proper reports can’t be extracted. I’ve seen many organizations start using their database much more effectively once they have clarity about what they’re measuring and how to pull reports. Do you know what you should be measuring regularly? Do you know how to run those reports accurately? Can you share the data clearly and effectively? Having these answers will not only help pull the right information out, it will help make sure more of the right information is getting put into the database.
It’s not too late to start planning or conduct a development audit to take a detailed look at your organization’s fundraising effectiveness.
Call or email me if you need someone to guide you through the process and help you maximize your organization’s fundraising opportunities.
All the best,
Kenny Sigler, CFRE