Data-driven fundraising: Interview with Blackbaud

By Chris Lee

Charities are at a loss as to how to manage data for marketing, according to new research. A study from software and services firm Blackbaud showed that 57 per cent of UK not-for-profits (NFPs) are struggling to unlock the marketing and fundraising potential in the data they hold, with just 30 per cent of respondents feeling they were doing a good job in utilising their data and 24 per cent saying that they struggled to manage the sheer volume of data generated.

Blackbaud’s Data Driven Fundraising report sought to look at how NFPs were using data, what the barriers to success were and what could be done to make better use of data, according to Azadi Sheridan, Blackbaud Europe’s product manager of customer relationship management (CRM).

Drowning in data?

Sheridan believes there is certainly more data on donors and supporters than many charities can handle.

“Whereas private companies might have a dedicated team for data, social media and CRM, NFPs are much more restricted in head count,” he told NMK. “Nearly a quarter of respondents said they employed fewer than one person to ensure that their data was clean, accurate, integrated and up-to-date, so data quality is bound to suffer. But CRM is a powerful tool for any charity and there are options for NFPs of all sizes and types.”

Most charities surveyed were using a CRM system of some form to manage their data, although with 39 per cent of respondents admitting data is held in at least four different systems, there are problems with data cleanliness and integrity, in Sheridan’s view.

A missed social opportunity

Blackbaud’s study found that only a third of respondents were able to integrate data from third-party online giving platforms into a CRM system and just 15 per cent could integrate their social media data — a major missed opportunity, according to Sheridan.

“Social media data is rich in potential for charities, in terms of the insight it holds for understanding consumer behaviour, and as in industry we must do better at integrating this,” he said. “But with so much modern fundraising based around events and peer-to-peer, charities especially need to be able to analyse the data generated from online giving, both from those participating in the events and the friends, family and colleagues that sponsor them.”

The problem with data

Part of the problem is that NFPs are generally pushed for time and resource. Of the NFPs surveyed for the report, more than half (54 per cent) felt that they lacked the resources to make best use of that data, and more than a third (35 per cent) said that they didn’t have enough knowledge about their CRM systems to manage them effectively.

“A lack of resources to manage CRM and data is understandable, but what was more worrying is a CRM system being unable to do what it is needed to,” continued Sheridan. “Whether that is a lack of support from the vendor or whether the system couldn’t cope with the volume of data, it is something that should be addressed as a priority.”

The good news is that most NFPs were aware of the need to make better use of data. The majority (70 per cent) of respondents said there was untapped potential in the data their organisation holds, while 36 per cent said that their organisation’s use of technology had increased the amount of funds raised

“Data can be invaluable for fundraising and marketing, but not-for-profits must be able to analyse that data to get the maximum value from it,” Sheridan concluded. “Data should be at the heart of every NFP’s fundraising and marketing strategies.”

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