Social data and fundraising: Do know know what makes your donors tick?

Profile Builder Annie

Profile Builder Annie

Here are some questions for you as you plan your 2012 fundraising strategies:

  • Where does the data about your members/donors live? Is it all in one place, or is it scattered throughout the organization?
  • Do the people contacting prospective donors have access to enough information about each person to help them have successful conversations? Do they know what makes each person "tick," or just their demographic information?
  • Are you able to effectively segment and target your list based on your members' passions and interests?

If you answered "yes" to all three of those questions, you can stop reading now.

But for those of you who answered "no" to any of those questions, now ask yourself what it would take to get to that ideal point. How do you find out what a person really cares about?

If you're familiar with this blog, you probably know the answer already: social media. Or, more specifically, social data - an aggregation/distillation of a person's social media activity.

But let me back up a step. Why do you need to understand your donors' passions and interests?

As a case in point, I often receive phone calls from my alma mater asking me for a donation. These calls are inevitably made by a work-study student, who starts the conversation by asking me what I liked best about our university or if I can believe how long it's been since I graduated, attempting to evoke a feeling of nostalgia.

Much as I love my university, I usually politely decline to donate. Why?

They're failing to hook me emotionally with something that's currently relevant in my life. College was, as they note, a long time ago, and though I am grateful for the education I received, I've moved on.

Now, if instead these people were to take a couple of minutes to look at my social media profiles, they'd learn a lot about what's important to me now, and how to connect my college to those experiences. For example, if my university called me up and said, "We see you're in a pirate band. That's awesome! Our music program could really use some help with its scholarship program...do you think you could help them out?" I would be more likely to donate.

You need to connect the passions of the person to the mission of the organization for fundraising success. This is not news (pdf). You likely already employ demographic and wealth overlays in your database; social data is the overlay that will allow you to improve your odds of success in connecting with each person.

Yet how many fundraisers have access to good-quality, current information about their donors, their families, their passions?

According to a recent marketing study of retailers (pdf) (different demographic, I know, but similar learnings can be gleaned):

Less than 10% of those surveyed are in an ideal position to tap into the data they have to effectively market to their customers. The data is typically not accessible for decision-makers and is rarely digestible within the time frame in which decisions need to be made. Additionally the inability to segment and effectively target unique audiences puts many retailers at a disadvantage.

Sound familiar?

We live in an age when such information is readily and publicly available - yet it's scattered across social networks. (And lest you think social networks are merely the playground of broke 20somethings, a recent study shows that 46 percent of millionaires are on Facebook.)

You can connect all that disparate information with your donor management database, and it's easier than you think. There are various solutions out there, including Small Act's Profile Builder.

With a social data solution, it is possible to not only know what makes your donors and potential donors tick, but when they're more likely to respond to a donation request: for example, when they get a new job, or mention your cause on social media. That kind of information is critical for your organization to have!

Bottom line: Social data can make your communications with donors more meaningful and successful. How are you going to incorporate social data into your 2012 strategic plans?