The Power of Data in a World Unknown

Over the last few months, our world has been turned upside down. Sometimes it may even feel like we are in a Dr. Seuss book where right is left, and left is right. But alas, this is where we are.

 

Terms like ‘social distancing’ and #stayhome have infiltrated our daily lives.  And as a society, we are at a tipping point where systemic racism is now gaining only a fraction of the attention it deserves, with a long way to go from here.

 

Thinking back to early March (a lifetime ago, it seems), there were many conversations on how the state of fundraising would be impacted by COVID-19 on top of an already polarized political environment.  Today, a little more than 3 months later, findings are interesting.  From data collected from our clients, as well as conversations with organizations industry-wide, the data is telling us two primary things:

  • Direct response marketing is holding strong for organizations during this time. And, in fact, many channels like DRTV, digital and mail have seen significant increases in revenue and response for many – especially those organizations in a vertical directly impacted by the pandemic, and organizations fighting for real progressive change.  Also faring well are those organizations who have been able to pivot messaging and missions to be authentic and relevant in the face of the current environment.
  • Alternatively, some channels like events and face-to-face have unfortunately taken a big hit, and continue to be in unchartered territory, reimagining how to take previously physical interactions into a virtual world.

 

So, what’s next?  To say we are headed for calmer (and more predictable) seas is probably not true.

And now, more than ever, organizations that are reliant on fundraising dollars must use data to guide the way.  This may be a unique point in history but there are some things that can be done:

 

  • Understand your program’s performance history: take a look back at your organization’s performance over other critical points in history (natural disasters, post-911, 2008 recession, previous elections, etc.) to gather trending data. Look at key factors like new donors acquired (along with relevant cost metrics), retention and overall value metrics during that time.
  • Let data guide the way: during times like these, difficult decisions often come into play. Reductions in event revenue, for example, may be prompting investment conversations.  Allowing analysis to drive decision-making can be a powerful way to quantify impact.  We believe so strongly in the power of data, in fact, we are offering a free tool to help provide the clarity needed.  To receive your report, simply email our resident analytic guru, Dave Jorgensen.
  • Consider creating a timeline: having a long-term program timeline, inclusive of critical internal and external disruptors as well as core program KPIs is a helpful tool to better understand program trends.
  • Get creative: if there is one thing that the past few months have illustrated it’s that our industry is a group of creative folks! We have pivoted, moved and shifted in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible.  And can’t stop now!  We must creatively apply the data findings to chart the course for the coming year.  This will be especially critical when it comes to retaining your donors in the months and years to come – especially if investments have been cut in acquiring new audiences.

 

They say that often the greatest growth comes from challenging times.  Using this logic, we are all headed towards massive transformation!  And using some of the proven tenets of our industry, like using the power of data to drive decision making, there is no doubt that great opportunities lie ahead.

 

 

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Candice Briddell

Candice Briddell, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the fundraising and marketing industry for nearly twenty years and has been a part of the MINDset team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was integral in the retention marketing program at AOL.