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Donor Participation Project

The Case for Unlocking Hidden Data: How Nonprofits Can Gain a Competitive Edge

Nonprofit organizations have access to a wealth of data that often goes untapped. While data in CRM systems is useful for reporting, there are many other data sources that offer key insights into donor behavior and preferences. Unlocking “hidden” data from sources like phone-a-thons, email marketing, social media, and events can give nonprofits a competitive edge through data-driven decision making.

Two data scientists and fundraising experts argue that nonprofits should make the case to leadership for investing in capturing and analyzing more granular data. On a recent podcast, Mike Brucek and Erin Moran discussed strategies for unlocking the power of hidden data.

  1. They recommend starting by simply requesting data exports from current vendors and systems. For example, ask your phone-a-thon vendor for detailed call records before ending a contract. Having more detailed data—even if outdated—is better than having no data at all.
  2. Brucek and Moran also suggest collaborating with leadership to invest in data engineering and science roles. While an annual fundraiser may show ROI within a year, data scientists often need several years to demonstrate value through data projects. Nonprofits should consider data roles as a long-term investment that enables more targeted, data-driven fundraising.

Once nonprofits have additional data in hand, they can build more robust models to determine metrics like donor lifetime value or the likelihood of attending an event. Nonprofits can also use data to personalize the donor experience through customized communication and more relevant engagement. Partnerships with data-focused vendors may help nonprofits that lack internal data expertise.

Unlocking hidden data is a first step towards gaining a competitive advantage.

Nonprofits that are able to leverage detailed data to its full potential will be poised to build data-driven fundraising programs focused on meaningfully engaging the right donors in the right ways at the right times.

Overall, nonprofits must make the case that an investment in data is an investment in their mission and financial sustainability. The future is data—and nonprofit organizations cannot afford to be left behind.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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