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The small non-profit that discovered the $ value of donor data insights

Updated Oct 27, 2017
Matt Dubins

A while back I had the distinct pleasure of working with the Canadian Orthapaedic Foundation (I'll call them COF from here on in), doing some data mining and predictive modeling to help uncover insights as to who their best donors were.  The hope was that if I could uncover such insights, then they could use them right away to improve their strategic decision making and thus improve their fund-raising results.

COF is not a big non-profit, especially compared to other nationally oriented organizations.  When I dove into their data, they had a total of approximately 6,300 active donors on file.  This point really deserves a lot of attention.  Often times I hear something to the effect of "We don't have enough data for analytics".  What matters in the world of analytics much more than the # of donors you have is whether you have been feeding into and using your donor database in consistent and regular ways.  

COF were very interested in what value I could get out of their data and I did not disappoint.  The ultimate presentation that I gave to them had two objectives:

1) Show them graphs representing donor insights that I had uncovered in the process of data mining.  More on that, and the graph that led to fantastic results, below.

2) Explain the predictive model that I had created for them, and how to use it.

In the course of showing the folks at COF the donor insight graphs that resulted from my data mining, they really zeroed in on the one below:

The graph very clearly showed them that: a) They've got active donors who have been on file for quite a long time, and b) The donors who have been on file for the longest are also the most likely to support them with a donation.

When talking about the results in this graph, I suggested to them that they should consider sending these donors a special note of thanks for their long-term and continuing support, as they evidently are the most reliable!  The folks at COF really took this advice to heart, and for their summer mailing they segmented out 875 long-term donors and sent them a special message recognizing their long-term support.  The results were fantastic:

From the long-term donor segment, they saw a response rate of 18%, as compared to 6.1% for their other donors.  They re-engaged 15 lapsed long-term donors and saw increased donation amounts from 27 of them.  

This right here is why you need to take a closer look at your data.  You don't need to be a big organization, you just have to have the willingness to evaluate where things are going well for you and where they aren't.  I'm so happy for COF and know that they'll continue to be advocates for the value that data can bring to a non-profit organization!

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