Data – Whipped into Shape!

You’ve heard the phrase that data is a commodity.  In my 17 years of experience, while serving thousands of non-profit clients in various roles with their acquired data, scores, and ratings, that statement is incredibly accurate.  I do have a caveat – Paying attention to how the data is gathered, the sources utilized, and how it is organized, presented and accessed is critical.  But once you establish that your data is valid, accurate, and consistent, then the rest is up to you.  As prospect researchers and development professionals, we have to figure out what all the gathered data really means in terms of continually identifying more prospects and raising more money. 

  1. The first step is to have a database that can store, manage, and report on the data that you have gathered. If you are keeping consistent and accurate gift entry data for your prospects and donors, as well as affiliation information (such as their constituent type, gift clubs, volunteering instances, attendance at cultivation events, participation in peer screenings, etc.), then take this gathered data a step further.
  2. Examine a prospect or donor relationship with your organization, their likelihood to continually donate to your organization, and estimate their capacity to make a gift.  Doing some statistical analysis/modeling, whether you do this internally or with an external vendor, is a next logical step, as well as a wealth screening that enables you to match and obtain information in the public domain such as real estate, securities holdings, gifts to other non-profits.
  3. Next after obtaining all this information, and you have invested the time, energy, and expense for utilizing the results, then you need to develop a plan for your prospect research and development efforts. 
  4. If the data sits in your database and no one accesses it, it now becomes the commodity that I alluded to in my first sentence.  Look at ways to develop queries, reports, action items, and dashboards. Manage your data by setting up a cohesive system, whether it is a prospect management system for major gifts, or planning direct channels of communication for the annual fund.  Don’t forget the power of obtaining and recording information that comes from social media outlets. 
  5. Segment your lists of prospects based on a certain set of criteria, then set a plan in motion to qualify, cultivate, and solicit your major and planned gift prospects. Keep your gift officers pipelines fresh with identified and initially qualified prospects to call upon, as well as making sure they clean out unresponsive or uninterested ones.  Or segment and test a mailing of annual fund or planned gift prospects that look likely to give you a gift or leave your organization in their will, or maybe even upgrade some of those annual giving prospects where you have capacity information that warrants the increase. 

In the end, your data should not just sit on the shelf.  The information is very powerful, and it is waiting for someone to dust off the cobwebs and take action.  You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish!