Utilizing Data to Guide Investments in your Fundraising Program

Utilizing Data to Guide Investments in your Fundraising Program

August 04, 2020 by Andy Canada

Data plays a vital role in the world of nonprofits. It is a critical tool that helps you make smarter decisions, and it can play a key role in supporting future investment in your efforts.

Using Data to Improve Fundraising Download GraphicYour data tells a story that can help you identify key trends as you think towards the future. Sometimes determining what that story says can be a challenge, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much data. But with the right guidance, you can quickly gain clarity that can make decision making much easier. For more information on how others are using data in fundraising to achieve results, download our content collection,  How to Use Data to Improve Your Fundraising, produced by Chronicle Intelligence, a division of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in partnership with JGA.

Successful organizations know that it’s important to use the data you have to guide decisions that will help you build stronger and deeper relationships with your donors and friends in the most efficient and effective way possible. Many are using that data to guide future investments in fundraising.

In “normal” times increasing the investment that is made towards the development operation can be challenging. Budgets are tight and boards and leadership want to ensure efforts are focused on those things that support the core mission. But we all know that if resources are deployed properly, increased investment in fundraising can help strengthen the organization.

Certainly, these are not “normal” times. The pandemic has forced everyone to change how they work and look for ways to trim budgets. While development departments certainly need to do their part to see if there are cost savings that can be made, it is equally important to make sure that you are staying focused on engaging your base of support and growing it. Data can help you make a very strong argument for increased budget support to strengthen your fundraising staff.

Plan now so that your leadership team and the board can begin to think about how to properly position the organization moving forward:

  • determine what the realistic capacity of your donor base over the next few years;
  • determine what staffing level is needed to properly engage the donors and prospective donors; and
  • present data on what a potential return on investment could be if you were able to strengthen your gift officer team.

It is critical that you are realistic with your assumptions about the potential capacity that is connected to your organization. You don’t want to promise your board an unrealistic return based on individuals that have a large amount of capacity but have very limited connection to your organization. Without factoring in engagement with your organization, a capacity analysis can’t provide a true picture of what your donor base might do to support your individual organization. Unlike other wealth screening products that provide you with a large amount of data to sort through about prospects’ capacity to all charities, JGA’s Acuity® integrates your data into the process so you have a very detailed and granular look at your best prospects. This information allows you to clearly see the number of potential donors who already have a relationship with you and matches that data up with a potential gift range. Your team can start engaging the priority prospects in under three months and without having to sift through huge amounts of data.

Once you have a clearer picture of the capacity of your donorbase for your organization, you need to determine what level of staffing is needed to properly cultivate, solicit, and steward those donors and prospects. When JGA works with clients on a staffing analysis, we build a set of assumptions on how many visits it might take to properly cultivate the names on the list. We meet with your gift officers, review current portfolios, and utilize best practices to build out a multi-year model. This step is key because it helps paint the true picture so your leadership and board can see what will be required to realize the potential identified in the capacity analysis. For instance, we all know it takes more than one visit to properly cultivate a donor and that not everyone on the list will meet or give their full gift capacity to your organization.

It’s important to be thoughtful in establishing the parameters of the model so that you have a realistic view of the true potential of your donors and prospects and what it will take from your staff to realize that potential. From there, you can build out a model that shows the potential return on investment (ROI) from adding additional gift officers or support staff to your fundraising team. Share these ROI numbers with your board and leadership to tell a compelling story for investment in additional fundraising staff and present them with a clear path for moving forward to strengthen the organization. This information allows for you and your board to make critical decisions for the future and it allows you to deploy your resources in the most effective manner possible.

Taking the time to analyze your data and understand the story it is telling will help paint a fuller picture of your operation and provide you with a deeper understanding about what is possible with the right plan and investment moving forward. During these times, the worst thing you can do is sit on the sidelines and wait for things to return to “normal.” Stay engaged with your donors and prospects and use your data to build a plan for moving forward.



Andy Canada, senior consultant and director of data analytics, brings to Johnson, Grossnickle and Associate’s clients significant development experience focused in annual giving, planned giving, major gift development, data analytics and campaign development and implementation. Before joining JGA in 2010, Andy served as development director for the Indiana University Foundation, where he served as lead development director for the School of Health Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). Prior to joining the Indiana University Foundation, Canada distinguished himself within the development team at Purdue University, serving as director of development for the Krannert School of Management. Canada is a graduate of Purdue University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision.