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Why Should Prospect Researchers Care about Data Analytics?

Wed, September 24, 2014 2:46 PM | Anonymous

Written by Elisa Shoenberger

Uncle Sam Wants You at the Data Analytics Conference!

The temperatures are falling. The trees are exploding in rainbows. It’s that special time of year. Yes, it’s APRA IL’s Data Analytics Conference! We are eagerly crossing off the days in anticipation of this event with renowned speakers: Josh Birkholz of BWF and Peter Wylie and Kevin McDonnell, authors of Score!

But the big question is why analytics? Why is it important for researchers like you and me? As you may know, Big Data is the buzzword of the year, if not the decade. With the monumental increases in technology, we live in an age where an unprecedented amount of data can be collected and analyzed. Now, this might seem very scary to some people, especially with recent revelations about the NSA or scarily accurate predictive modeling by Target.

Despite these challenges, this new world order of data presents a lot of opportunities for researchers in the fundraising world. Analytics can help us make smarter decisions as a research department, as a fundraising department, and ultimately as an organization. In Josh Birkholz’s Fundraising Analytics, he writes: “Analytics is a suite of metrical tools and techniques for understanding the past and projecting the future. We can use analytics to understand our fundraising programs.” Faön M. Mahunik, Director of Research Analytics, writes that analytics can help you spot patterns in your data. He uses the example of a museum that tracks its members and people who attend events. Is there any relationship between people who attend events and people who become members? Data mining can help figure it out.

Analytics can help us figure out if we are spending the right money on the right donors. In a recent article about donor retention, Helen Brown talked about how analytics can help identify new donors that are the most likely to renew and make sure that those people are effectively stewarded.   Think of how much money could be raised and saved on direct mail if you only mailed to donors that are likely to renew!

While analytics is particularly helpful for annual giving, there are important applications at the major gift level. Birkholz continues on and says, “We can use analytics of pave our road for the future. Which prospects will be our top donors 10 years from now?” Analytics can be used to determine: What do our major donors look like as a whole? Maybe they all live in Oak Brook or live in the Gold Coast of Chicago. But most importantly, analytics can help you figure out who else in your database also looks like a major gift donor. Maybe that’s the next person I should research. I know that I’ve used Major Gift Scores from modeling projects to help me prioritize my work. These modeling scores are critical to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our researcher work. This is just another example of the power of analytics. All in all, data analytics, to paraphrase from Josh Birkholz, can inform the fundraising strategy, which is the core of our research work.

So, come on, come all to APRA IL’s Data Analytics Conference and find out how you can join the data effort!

Josh Birkholz, Fundraising Analytics, John Wiley * Sons, Inc, 2008, 2.

Faön M. Mahunik, “How Analytics Impacts Fundraising,” CCS Philanthropy 360, 5/17/11, accessed 9/22/14, http://ccsfundraising.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/how-analytics-impacts-fundraising/

Helen Brown, “Prospect identification: 4 ways to help retain new donors,” Helen Brown Group, 9/18/14, accessed 9/22/14, http://www.helenbrowngroup.com/prospect-identification-4-ways-help-retain-new-donors/.

Josh Birkholz, Fundraising Analytics, John Wiley * Sons, Inc, 2008, 2.

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