What’s next for 2017: Data based fundraising?

Data from a tablet

Guest Bloggers | 21 December 2016

With the changed fundraising environment, many charities priorities and focus have shifted toward managing donor data. Howard Lake explores...

2016 has ended much like 2015 did - with some fundraising practices criticised and censured, while millions of donors continue to give money to the causes that matter to them. 

So, many fundraisers won't be surprised if this criticism continues throughout 2017, no matter the reforms made by many charities, by individual fundraisers (e.g. as contributors to the Commission on the Donor Experience), by the Institute, and by new regulatory brooms.

What to do in the face of this? Get smart. How? Do all you can to understand data, because data (about individual human beings) lies at the heart of the criticisms of the past two years. Donors who are vulnerable, consent, multiple contacts, partnering with agencies, trying to learn more about supporters - at the heart of all these practices is data, its acquisition and its use.

Is this merely a reactive suggestion? It is driven by that, of course. But only in part. The opportunity to commit to being much better with data is one of the silver linings of this relentless focus on fundraising as a matter of public debate. It might just spur enough fundraisers and charities to learn even more about this issue - and use it to our collective advantage.

Greater insight into data by more fundraisers is arguably one of the ways forward for the sector in 2017. It should help fundraisers do more with less, do more that will please more donors, and, slightly more importantly, achieve more for beneficiaries.

A data-fluent profession is likely not only to achieve more in its day-to-day fundraising, but also be in a more confident position to counter erroneous or biased criticisms of their charity, of its fundraising methods or indeed of fundraising as a profession.

Fortunately the sector has plenty of data analysts, fundraisers with commercial data experience, and networks (such as the IoF Insight group) who can spread expertise. There are pro bono initiatives such as that of Data Kind, which spread knowledge and hands-on support.

So, in 2017, make friends with a colleague who understands data better than you do. Seek out appropriate training, and help transform the charitable organisations we work for, and the profession that underpins them.

We use IT all the time in our fundraising. Let's focus less on the Technology and more on the Information.

Howard LakeHoward Lake, founder, UK Fundraising

Howard was writing in a guest capacity

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