Tag Archives: research

Predictive Analytics: a nice overview infographic

How nonprofits use analytics for fundraising.  An infographic on Twitpic
Thanks to the fine folks at Bentz Whaley Flessner (@BFW_Social) for this great infographic. Yay Donorcast!


HAHD Kick-off … and I’m already filching from other media …

I was asked to post a little bit about myself for a conference website.  It’s fitting, I think, to kick off my ‘hundred article in a hundred days’ with a note about fundraising worldview.  Here tis:

I worked in higher education fundraising and public affairs in some capacity for 16 years.  During that time, I had a bunch of snazzy titles.  I really enjoyed my work, traveled the world, asked for millions of dollars in person, and raised a hella lot of money, always making or beating my goals.  And I burned out.  *sizzle*

So in 2006, I started my own firm so I could take the best of the “old skool” fundraising techniques, add meaningful ROI-proven Web 2.0 (am I a dunderhead because I don’t know what that phrase is meant to represent?) strategies, and increase the number of retained donors and dollars for my clients. The company works with npos in the US and Europe – we’re small but happy, and we drink a lot of overpriced frou frou coffees.

Here’s my deal:  I am a member of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) committee, an initiative started by the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy and the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) …props to Bill Levis and Cathlene Williams…, and co-sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Council for Resource Development (CRD), Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG).  My role thusfar has been to lead the creation of education programs to be used by organizations and chapters world-wide.

Here’s the goal:  Change the path of fundraising in a fundamental way.  In its 2008 report across 26 sub-segments of the nonprofit market, the FEP results demonstrate that, essentially, five out of every six dollars raised will be lost the subsequent year due to attrition.  This is Horrible ROI — it costs more to acquire donors than to retain them.

So I like to consider social network constructs for nonprofits with a clear mission — how will these approaches, in concert with more traditional methodologies, help us treat our donors well enough to increase loyalty and lifetime donor value, to think analytically to predict who of our present donors and prospective donors will likely give more and more often, and to change the fundamental appeal and retention strategies we use to keep the donors we add.”

Post-AFP International Conference 2009 – notes & observations

The 2009 AFP conference in New Orleans is but an 8-hour old memory.  But I am already thinking about its agenda and execution, and I am ready to drop a few notes here, just to clean out my brain:

People who know me will understand that my first thought runs to the epicurean:  Serve Food!  Make it the first priority for sponsorship next year, and advertise that food will be served.  This is a basic Hierarchy of Needs issue — the attendees were hungry and, in a city of wonderful cuisine, did not stay in the marketplace to eat $10 boxed sandwich lunches and the random Twix bar (mmmm, Twix).  Vendor booth staff stood idly by during the lunch hour.  This is why fundraisers serve a nice bowl of cubed cantaloupe at their events, to encourage people to attend and entice them to stay.  Basic fundraising rules apply to events run by trade organizations too, so as a service to the vendors, keep the attendees nearby.

And, on the subject of vendors, reconsider closing the marketplace after the plenary and late-afternoon events.  We were re-directed out of the general meeting hall to the lobby, not through the marketplace.  Lots of unstomped purple carpet is a waste in Any environment, but justifying the cost of a booth is easier when the first-day energy is high and traffic is heavier.  And as a side note, tell the guards asking for a vendor permit to chill, man.  No need to go all ‘Cops’ on me when I was making a purchase at a booth!

Cafe du Monde beignets and mocha lattes.  Nuff said.

Please add a full track on social networking and technology integration, and don’t try to do it alone.  Team up with NTEN or the SXSW event coordinators to put a full-day pre-conference session together.  Not only will the average age of attendees drop (a nice batch of potential retainees and future attendees here, my friends), but we fundraisers who have used a lot of traditional and “ROI-proven ” appeal and managerial approaches with great success will now have the opportunity to include some of the “tech-only-all-the-time” devotees in discussions about these same techniques and the traits they share with the new media.  I see a marketplace-wide hand-holding and Kumbaya moment here, people!  In addition, let’s give those of us who might feel overwhelmed by the pace of new social networking concepts get a chance to invest in intensive training in a safe and comfy environment.  I’m here to serve as a generational bridge, people!  Six lanes, even.

Give Josh Birkholz his own session, or three or four.  Bring in more analytics vendors and consultants.  Josh is a great speaker, and he needs more time to answer the volumes of questions that completely monopolize the Q&A sections of our sessions.  Attendees want to know more about what the analytics folks are doing.

And we need a better  understanding of new IRS positions as revealed by commissioner speeches and legislative (fed and state) interpretations and rulings — our boards deserve an advanced education for our EDs and development directors.  Some interesting stuff going on out there with implications for all of us…  I know a great potential speaker — high-level and rapid presentation awaits.

What does it say about us as fundraisers that there are attendees lining the walls, sitting on the floors, during sessions on basic major gift solicitations?

Props to AFP for adopting the FEP reporting module as the very first standardized report for all segments of all sizes!!!!  Credibility for the field is only increased by improving ROI assessment methodologies and, as FEP research proves, retention appears to be one of the leading challenges to the industry as a whole.  Rock on, FEP!  Special props to Bill Levis, Cathy Williams, John Joslin, Wes Lindahl, Lilya Wagner, Josh Birkholz, Adrian Sargeant, the software companies and their committee contacts and their tremendous investment of time and money, the Urban Institute, CASE, APRA, and all the other players in making this project a reality (I know I’m forgetting people and organizations — apologies with a promise to update this post later).

Nice hotels, great shuttles, awesome AFP staff (Joanna Heilig saved my butt!), thoughtful consideration and restraint in use of promotions and session materials and trinkets during this economy (glad to see my speaker gift expense go to the AFP Foundation instead of plastic-ware this year — but the crow in me really does like shiny things on my desk, so when times are better…), wonderful weather, attractive space, a warm congenial feeling all around.  And New Orleans people are such great hosts — go spend tourism dollars there!

I want to speak again next year … look for my proposal, dear program committee.

Building a Fund-raising Mousetrap: a model study of appeal cost-effectiveness

So, if a big company is interested in underwriting a very large study on the cost-effectiveness of certain appeal types, this would be good, yes?


Posed with just such a question last week, I went into “thinking aloud” trance (those who know me will easily identify the look – dazed stare into the distance with occasional high-speed blinking, followed by rapid speech and many tangential comments and parenthetical thoughts, just like my writing!).  I was talking so much that I stopped eating fresh seafood in a coastal city, and that’s a rare moment indeed.

It just so happens that I was considering how I might present the fund-raising effectiveness analysis segment of a 75 minute AFP conference session and a 3 hour AFP training session, so I’m thinking about the down and dirty content.  If I were ever inclined to launch such a massive research project, I would be taking on tremendous responsibility to create and sustain a new industry standard in the midst of terrific legislative, statutory and wealth changes.  The acceptance of such a study would presume tremendous collaborative efforts in the sector!

There are so many variables to include in a research project, including: type of NPO (for example, is it a university or a research center or an arts center — how does it self-define in the absence of a SEC sub-category?); size of prospect and donor pools; geographic diversity; biographic diversity; definition of an appeal; definition of a cost; definition of gift; etc.  There is no standardization of these variables across software platforms, and this ain’t 990 info, so what is the standard for each variable for research’s sake?

So here’s my idea.  Wouldn’t it be most effective to run a small model project that will provide the opportunity to norm a large number of variables?  Yes!  Yes, it would!  And wouldn’t outcomes from the model project be a more realistic window through which we might peer at our effective fund-raising future?  Mais Oui!

I would select K-12 independent schools with an inclusive advancement operating budget between $750K-$1.5M (self-identified, or identified via benchmarking after a 990 search).  The annual average count of the donor and prospect pools of schools of this size and wealth would change little year to year because graduation class sizes typically hold steady over the decades.  With the exception of a small group of need-based scholarship students in more recent years, one can make a pretty basic set of assumptions about the alumni pool: wealth, gender differences, geographic disbursement, demographic and psychographic profiles, etc.  Additional populations, like parents, staff and corporations/foundations, would be of a small enough scale that they could be measured separately. Thus, the variable of types of solicitation or appeal method could be normed more easily.  Giving trending in this market would also be fairly stable, so small-scale variations could be identified more readily.  Measurement of a period of time either pre- or post-campaign (be it capital or other), or eliminating a statistically relevant percentage of the highest and lowest value gifts, would be important.  A crazy person might also look at identified date ranges that would show periods of stability in the Dow to norm out market fluctuations — one could presume a stable period of stock wealth in an individual’s personal wealth profile, and the income from estate-based appeals would make a lot more sense.  The affluent K-12 market happens to be a pretty important donor segment to follow right now, given the market issues and the presumed wealth transfer to come. 

I know this isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but I’d like to do it.  I am a Freak…