At Chell Perkins, we know that charities can often be frustrated or intimidated by their databases. Whether you have a simple spreadsheet or something more complex hosted on one of the many CRM options, it can seem like a thankless chore to keep it updated. But if you take some time to dig in, your database can be one of the greatest tools to get the most out of your fundraising!
At its simplest, a charity database might contain the names, dates and amounts of all the donations your organisation has received in a year. More detailed databases could also include supporters’ addresses, a record of monthly donors, notes on their preferences and circumstances, and more. Even a simple database can be a useful source of information as you plan your next communications.
It’s easy to be intimidated by data, especially if you have a complex database. Here are some key things we look for at Chell Perkins when we first analyse a charity partner’s data - in this case, focusing on individual donors over a 12-month period:
● How many donors and donations did you have? Compare this to the year before - has either increased or decreased?
● How many new donors did your charity have in the most recent full year?
● How many one-off, repeat (more than once but not on a regular schedule) and regular (usually monthly) donors do you have?
● How much do people give as their first one-off gift?
● How much do people give when they first sign up as a regular donor?
● How much do people donate on average as a one-off, repeat and regular donation?
● Did any of your current regular donors start as one-off or repeat givers? How many times did they give before committing to a regular donation?
● Did your charity receive more donations in certain months of the year than others? What events or campaigns might have caused this?
● Do most people donate online, by phone, by cheque or another way?
What can you do with this information? First of all, presenting it visually might help you to understand it more easily. Try a pie chart or bar chart - both of these can be made directly in a spreadsheet using the data you have collected. For example, you might want to create a graph that illustrates the number of people donating certain amounts, or the amount of money donated each month over a year. This can also be a useful tool to show the results of your analysis to your team or board. If they understand the data, they are probably more likely to understand any changes you propose based on your analysis!
Making changes based on your analysis is the key. Once you have learnt the habits and preferences of your supporters, you can use this information to plan more successful fundraising activities. For example:
● If you gained a lot of new donors in June and you judge this to be the result of a sponsorship campaign, consider running something similar again with a focus on retaining more new donors this time around.
● If most of your supporters gave between £5 and £15 as their first donation, consider asking for a £10 donation in communications to supporters who have not yet given financially.
● If the number of new donors you acquired in the most recent full year is less than the year before, consider a focus on acquisition and retention of donors over the next 12 months to avoid your database slimming down and risking donor fatigue (where the same small group of people are being asked to give again and again).
● If more people donated online than by cheque, review your donation page to ensure online givers are getting a streamlined and tailored experience to make their donation process as simple as possible.
In a sector where a lot of activities are based on accepted wisdom or ‘the way things have always been done’, it can give you a significant boost to base your activities on your own data, especially if you are a small charity. The best way to connect with and make the most of your supporters is to really get to know them, and data is a key part of that. And you might even find that you quite like making pie charts after all!