Using Science to Improve the Art of Fundraising

Every fundraiser knows there’s an art and a science to generating revenue.  For a long time, I used to think the art of fundraising was much more fun than the science, but the more solicitations and years in the field under my belt, the more I appreciated the science.  I appreciate the science so much, I built a tool around it that turns science into art. Ravela Insights works with organizations all over the country, and I am amazed at how many development directors build strategy around a foundation they think exists.  It’s good strategy, but with a little more background information and insight into the facts, it could be great strategy.  To know where you want to go, you have to know where you are.  Donor data analytics will tell you the story.  Here are a few examples:

Gaps in Giving

By slicing and dicing the data in your database, you can identify any and every untapped opportunity  in your giving file.  This is where great strategy begins – in finding and filling the gaps.  If you find that you have 8 donors giving between $5,000 and $10,000, the first thing to do is build a cultivation and solicitation strategy to retain or upgrade those donors.  If you’d like to move from having 8 donors to 12, the next step is to figure out how to graduate or find 4 new donors at that level. By looking at the hard data and facts, your database is telling you that you have a real foundation to develop upon.

What You’re Doing Right in Your Fundraising

It’s always nice to know exactly what efforts are leading to increased dollars and donors.  Our frequently asked questions is a starting point to help you uncover exactly what you’re doing well.  From there you can replicate those same successful tactics to the weak parts of your fundraising efforts.

  • How much is my average annual gift?
  • How many donors are making annual gifts each year?
  • How many donors make more than one gift each year?
  • What channel brings in the highest average gift (online, direct mail, tributes, etc.)?
  • How much does it cost to bring in one donor to each of those channels?

Ask yourself these questions for each giving program you operate – annual giving, major giving, capital campaign, and planned giving. You are sure to find something in every category that you’re doing well.  Identify it and roll it out within your weaker programs to ramp up success with little organizational change.

Gifts from New, Retained and Recaptured Donors

At Ravela, we look at the average gift for new, retained and recaptured donors (lapsed for 3+ years).  Here’s an example from some analytics we recently did for an advocacy organization.  New donors averaged $230.03 as their first gift to the organization.  Retained donors averaged $630.91, and recaptured donors were lapsed for three years and came back to give $489.25.  If this was your data, wouldn’t you focus more resources on retaining and recapturing lapsed donors versus acquiring brand new donors?  They give at such a higher rate.

There are dozens of other ways to look at your donor data that will give you the story of how donors are engaging and what efforts are paying off.  When you have a view of the landscape, you can build strategy on solid foundation that will increase revenue by helping to hone your focus. Wondering where or how to start? Contact Ravela Insights today to get started building your fundraising strategy using insights within your own database.

About Mary Hackett

Mary is a fundraiser & operations strategist who specialized in helping development offices create deep, meaningful experiences for their donors.

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