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When you sit up at night thinking (and worrying!) about your biggest needs to really move the needle with your fundraising — and let’s be honest, we’ve all been there — what is it that makes the list?

Do you need to: Improve your response rates and average gifts? Grow your member base? Reactivate your lapsed audience? Cultivate your current donors?

Or is it perhaps some combination of the above? Rest assured you’re not alone. These challenges combined with the ever-present need to become more donor-centric in all that we say and do, as well as doing less with more, is keeping many of us up at night. But what if you could be well on your way to doing all of these things in just a few easy steps at little or no cost? In a world driven by data and dictated by the “budget,” it’s imperative you find creative ways to accomplish the same goals and achieve donor-centricity in your marketing on a shrinking budget. But first, you must take care of some basic housekeeping.

Clean data is good data.

This is the easiest and most cost-effective step you can take in improving your data, and most often times, it’s the step that gets skipped. Just because you have a database full of people who support your organization doesn’t mean you can roll out a direct mail, email, or telemarketing campaign that is truly donor-centric and will perform well as a result. If your data isn’t clean, you’re wasting your time and energy. Not to mention you will likely be dealing with lower-than-average results — or in other words, your results will not win you any accolades at the next board meeting. Here’s a story for you. A few years back during initial conversations, a potential client expressed that they were very proud of the fact that they had grown their active file from 65,000 to close to 300,000 records in a very short amount of time. Even though the size of the file was growing, they couldn’t understand why their revenue was shrinking. We ran a data audit on their file and uncovered that over 73% of the file was strictly duplicates. To put this simply, can you imagine thinking you have nearly $300K in the bank (cool!) and then the bank let’s you know they’ve reconciled years of deposits and it’s really only $76K? Not cool. So the moral of the story is clean your database. Even if it’s just a simple dedupe, do it a few times a year. You need to know what you have to work with before you can implement any marketing strategies accurately, which leads us to the next topic.

To model or not to model?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of modeling. In fact, I love models, but sometimes they aren’t cost effective — and let’s admit it, sometimes they don’t work. For those of you that don’t have $10K–30K in your marketing budget every year for modeling, there is a simple and easy solution. Create a donor profile and use it to acquire additional data sources of quality leads for your program. It’s not very difficult, and your marketing partner should be doing this anyway.

We discovered several demographic and psychographic variables that made up the donor profile and used these variables to make a selection of data from our NexieBase. Utilizing the selected data along with an analysis on giving trends, we chose a test sample of the data using our donor profile and mailed it each month. By the third mailing the response rate was over 1% and continued to climb in subsequent mailings. Would you like to raise your response rate for acquisitions to over 1%? How about reactivating a significant portion of your lapsed audience? Do your organization a favor and work with a partner to develop your donor profile and begin seeing an improvement in your results. There are all sorts of creative ways to get data to work for you, but what works for one organization might not work for another. Be creative and work with your marketing partner to come up with different methods to test.

If you’d like more information on cleaning up your database, creating a donor profile to drive your communication strategy, or increasing your overall program results, email us at .


By: Kristi Rinck