Digital strategy, Strategic planning

Leveraging Data to Drive Results at End of Year: Insights from our Nonprofit Advisory Board

Trista Murphy

Senior Vice President

As Senior Vice President, Trista Murphy brings nearly 15 years of experience to her work alongside a number of MissionWired’s nonprofit partner organizations. Her previous roles at Make-A-Wish America, Americares, and Save the Children make her one of the industry’s leaders in digital and integrated marketing. She’s on the board of the DMAW and has served on the planning committee of the ANA Nonprofit Federation.

As we approach the end of a challenging year for fundraising, we’re seeing folks put all the more pressure on Giving Tuesday and end-of-year campaigns.

And, as we discussed the last time we met with the industry leaders on our Nonprofit Advisory Board, the particularly challenging economic landscape we find ourselves in means it’s especially critical to be driven by data in your decision-making.

So what exactly does it mean to make data-backed strategic choices that will most positively impact your results, both at year-end and in the long term? How can we use data to help deliver messaging that encourages supporters that now is an important time to give? We sat down with our Nonprofit Advisory Board to dig into exactly that.

For their takeaways and insights on leveraging data for your strongest possible results at year-end, read on!

The insights below were shared during conversations between members of our Nonprofit Advisory Board – leaders from seven organizations, including CARE USA, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Save the Children, The Nature Conservancy, Project HOPE, Share Our Strength | No Kid Hungry, and MD Anderson Cancer Center – in meetings that convened in September 2023. These discussions were designed to create space for a cohort of leaders to generate solutions to the challenges faced by the nonprofit world. You can learn more about our Nonprofit Advisory Board here.

Leveraging Data for a Multi-Channel Attribution Approach

When it comes to budget decisions across channels, attribution has long posed a challenge to fundraising leaders. Our Advisory Board took a close look at how relying solely on last-click attribution misses the opportunity to see the full picture of a donor’s environment and the messaging they’re interacting with before making a gift.

This disparity often surfaces when an organization pulls back spending in one channel, only to see an impact in another channel – sometimes months after the changes were made. Our Board recommends taking a more holistic look at your channels and testing to understand which are directly correlated. Say, for instance, that you run a new campaign over CTV and YouTube: How do those ads impact your organic and paid search results? A broader look at attribution can help you make the most informed budget decisions.

Rethinking Brand Awareness and Fundraising Budgets

When we asked the leaders on our Advisory Board what campaigns they would run if they had zero limitations in budget, we heard about creatively stunning, integrated brand awareness campaigns. Getting buy-in to build campaigns like these can often be a challenge because it’s hard to trace a visible impact on revenue.

Building top-of-funnel brand awareness campaigns is still critical to your work to broaden your audience and bring in new supporters, though – and these ads do have an impact on KPIs. To help illustrate the value of these campaigns, look to metrics aside from revenue to show the impact that visibility from airtime, homepage takeovers, and other brand-focused campaigns can have on driving traffic to your site. By stacking your channels to build an integrated campaign, you can achieve a 2+2=5 effect on your brand awareness and ultimately, your fundraising results.

Leveraging Data for Good Ahead of End of Year

With most nonprofits’ busiest and most critical year-end campaigns around the corner, many organizations are thinking about how to lean into reactivation and retention strategies to maximize revenue from their existing audiences.

While we’re hearing that most programs are seeing a softness in revenue and donors, some are reporting an increase in donor value which is “masking” a loss of donors by making revenue look either steady or, in some cases, up, while their number of donors is still decreasing. Statistically speaking, we know that an increase in donor value ultimately will not outrun donor acquisition and retention. At some point, organizations will start to see a point of diminishing returns, and a loss of donors will negatively impact fundraising.

As organizations look to data to inform their decision on how best to encourage current donors to give now, our Advisory Board recommends three key strategies:

  • Look to your results from past year-ends. What tactics drove the highest rates of reactivation among your lapsed supporter file? Learn how to optimize your campaigns based on what’s worked before.
  • First, say, “Thank you.” Take the opportunity ahead of the busy fundraising to prime your donors with a thank you for the gifts they’ve already made. Members of our Board have seen success running these as telemarketing campaigns.
  • Use data to build a story arc for your donor. Last year’s donors are a key audience for this year’s campaign. Targeted messaging that says, “You gave last year – here’s all the great work we did with your donation,” tells your audience a story of their support of your cause.

And with the end-of-year season just weeks away, members of our Nonprofit Advisory Board and other like-minded organizations are looking for efficient ways to grow their lists with data-backed supporters likely to convert to donors and investments that will pay off quickly at Giving Tuesday and year-end. MissionWired recommends The Digital Co-Op as a powerful resource to maximize your campaigns over email, SMS, and ads. Data-informed investments powered by cutting-edge predictive analytics pay back fast because they connect you with donors identified for their interest in your cause and their propensity to give. The Digital Co-Op can also help put that same data behind your win-back strategies making sure you’re able to keep those ever-valuable, last-year-but-not-this-year donors engaged.

Looking to the Future: Data-Informed Strategies for Long-Term Growth

When asked how our Nonprofit Advisory Board was thinking about the future of growth and fundraising for their organizations, many shared the importance of setting aside a dedicated test innovation budget to explore new channels without the immediate pressure of proving that a channel will bring in a certain amount of annual revenue.

As an investment in future resources, testing out innovative tactics allows programs the opportunity to be among the first to a channel or growth strategy. It’s a challenging place to be because when you’re the first, you’re taking a risk in a channel without results to prove value. But our Board suggests that there is a great deal of value in stepping outside a culture of certainty to make space for a culture of learning. They ask these questions: What is the risk if we don’t innovate? Will we continue to see downward trends in our results if we’re not taking the time to build the tools we’ll need to solve our next challenges?

If you want to access more insights for driving results at year-end, take a look at our All-in-One Checklist for End-of-Year Digital Fundraising 2023. And at MissionWired, we’re always excited to talk about how we can put strategies like these into practice for your world-changing organization – connect with our team to get the conversation started!

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