Elevating Your Major Gifts and Planned Giving with Data-Driven Decision-Making

August 18, 2022 | Chris LoPresti
Elevating Your Major Gifts and Planned Giving with Data-Driven Decision-Making

Let’s imagine a familiar scenario: the end of your nonprofit’s current fundraising campaign is approaching. Around the office or in your virtual workspace, fundraisers bustle, scheduling presentations, making calls, and otherwise wrapping up on a high note. In your fundraising CRM, the donations received and the goals you set for your campaign can seem abstract, but your fundraising successes and setbacks will have a major impact on the communities, causes, and people you serve.

Given these high stakes, nonprofits want to drive donations as efficiently as possible. However, relying on legacy data and outdated tools can hamper your fundraising efforts and keep you from meeting your fundraising needs. This is why data-informed donor screening and segmentation practices are so important: with the right tools and practices, your team can maximize and optimize fundraising efforts to raise more money, spend fewer resources raising it, and increase your impact on the communities you serve. Here’s how—and why—nonprofits can move from legacy systems to data-driven decision-making.

Legacy data: don’t leave money on the table

Many nonprofits rely on legacy data that provides an incomplete picture—which can limit their fundraising capacity. Nonprofits often focus on donor net worth or income, for example, which on their own provide only limited insights. Even if you know a donor’s income, a big “if” with legacy models, do you understand their expenses or true net worth?

Consider one donor, Janet, who earns $300,000 per year, and another donor, Bethany, earning $200,000. Based solely on income, Janet might seem a more promising prospect. But what if she has $250,000 in annual expenses, while Bethany only has $100,000 in expenses? Here, Bethany could have more capacity to give.

Legacy-modeled data often fails to take details like these into account. Fortunately, with the right tools and practices, nonprofits can tap into more nuanced information and use data to more effectively screen and segment donors. Let’s dive deeper into how data-informed decision-making can support your fundraising.

3 techniques for effective data-driven decision-making

Whether you’re looking to acquire new donors, retain the ones already on your list, or upgrade existing donors, using your data to optimize your asks can help you reach the right supporters, with the right messages, at the right time, every time.

The more you can optimize every donation ask, or tailor each donor’s ask to their specific capacity to give, the more effective your ask becomes. For example, based simply on income you might ask a donor earning $50,000 a year to donate $25, and another donor earning $500,000 to donate $2,500. In both cases, you make the individual donations more workable, increasing the chance that they can donate, while also increasing your overall funds raised.

Segmenting by income data is an effective start, but it’s only a start—income alone misses other nuances of a donor’s ability to give. You can further screen donors based on a variety of factors, some of which will uncover expenses and other key insights.

Uncovering donors without children

The ideal fundraising system leaves no donor behind. That said, some donors are more likely to give, and to give more, than others. Donors without children, in particular, can prove a major boon for NGOs. Raising children is expensive. Beyond providing basic needs, many parents fund college and also want to leave behind substantial inheritances to help ensure that children, grandchildren, and future generations prosper.

Many people without children also want future generations to prosper, but instead of leaving large inheritances to relatives, they may fund charities and social programs. With the right data tools, you can uncover childless donors and offer them an avenue for ensuring that the resources they provide are put to good work today and well into the future.

That’s not to say that childless donors should be an organization’s only focus. Plenty of people with children donate money, too. And often, kids follow in their parents’ footsteps, with the children of donors more likely to support charitable causes. You can also uncover these insights with the right data platform.

Uncovering childless donors is a great start, but it’s far from the only data you can bring to bear.

Leveraging career insights to better understand donors

With TouchPoints, you can also leverage career data including job titles, employers, and other résumé insights.

If someone is working for a company with a major focus on sustainability, there’s a good chance that individual employees are passionate about sustainability. Requests centered around sustainability initiatives may gain more traction. Relationships are vital, and understanding what might make someone tick could help you form stronger connections and drive donations.

With some research, you might also uncover more nuanced insights, such as when companies award performance bonuses. If a potential donor recently received a bonus, they may be able to more easily afford donations.

Besides building relationships with specific donors, you may also develop avenues to tap into corporate philanthropy. This is an area of growing interest for many nonprofits, and it’s backed by data: Giving USA’s latest report found that corporate giving spiked in 2021. As employees, donors can become internal “cause champions,” potentially influencing where companies focus their philanthropy efforts.

Further, money is only one aspect of giving. Many people are willing to donate time and energy when their work schedule allows it. By understanding the busy seasons and cycles of different industries, you can identify the right opportunities to ask different supporters to volunteer and make it easier for them to say “yes.” For example, someone working in the accounting field may not have much spare time during tax season, but may have more spare time come summer.

Simply put: by better understanding your supporters, you can improve your outcomes and interactions with them, which helps you advance your mission.

Identifying donors with donor-advised funds and estate planning

Another useful TouchPoints service is uncovering donor-advised funds (DAFs) and donors engaged in estate planning. With DAFs, donors already have a fund in place to make donations and securing tax benefits easier. This suggests that the donors are committed and serious about donating.

Some donors are also actively engaged in estate planning, having set up trusts and other financial vehicles. Once again, such forethought suggests that the donors are serious about giving and also ensuring that their funds are put to good use.

Understanding your donors and the tools they already have at their disposal will help you craft better requests and strengthen relationships. You can also focus more of your efforts on donors who are ready to act right away.

Putting donor data to work

There are over 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States alone. Competition for donations is high, and the amount of donation revenue your organization pulls in will be largely determined by your fundraising efforts. And, of course, how much you raise will shape your ability to address issues, serve communities, and more.

Handling raw data is difficult and time consuming without the right tools. However, by using data platforms built by data scientists and designed specifically for fundraising, you can put your organization in the best position to succeed. TouchPoints leverages experienced insights from data experts to empower charitable organizations and causes, which helps substantially increase revenues while also reducing workloads. Once your organization uses data efficiently, especially when paired with a unified or highly-integrated fundraising and engagement platform like EveryAction, your nonprofit can then store and act on that data across all your supporter interactions and ultimately advance your mission.