By DonorSearch

Nonprofits aren’t strangers to dealing with crises, but that doesn’t mean that the current pandemic sweeping the globe allows for business as usual for these organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on every corner of society, and the ongoing economic downturn is leaving many hard-pressed for vital resources. The role of nonprofits has often been to provide resources and aid to underserved communities. That role is especially elevated now with the need to fill in gaps in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Needless to say, it’s essential that nonprofits don’t fade into the background. However, at the same time, successfully operating a nonprofit is more difficult than it has been in recent years.

The necessity of social distancing means long-relied-on fundraising methods— including events and even face-to-face meetings with key donors— can no longer go on as planned. Further, with unemployment rates skyrocketing, many donors are unable to donate as much as they once may have.

Luckily, the government has stepped in to provide aid to nonprofits, because our nation’s leaders understand the essential nature of these organizations’ work. However, while the CARES Act may provide needed support to organizations, nonprofits still need to buckle down and innovate their practices to continue fundraising during COVID-19.

At AccuData, we use data to help nonprofits improve their operations, whether creating fundraising-based data hygiene solutions or even campaign marketing solutions. We believe that data-based efforts will play a huge role in weathering the current fundraising climate, beginning with the following efforts:

  • Revisit and refresh your database.
  • Optimize digital giving methods.
  • Perfect your fundraising ask.
  • Discover new opportunities for engagement.

As the need for nonprofit relief grows and the fundraising landscape changes each day, there’s little time to waste. Let’s get started!

Revisit and refresh your database.

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic feels like a pause in time. For those able to work from home, it feels like a period of waiting for the doors to reopen to a safe world. There’s “before the pandemic” and “after the pandemic”— and we’re currently stuck in the “between” period.

One of the most valuable things your nonprofit can do during this pause is dive into your database. The data you’ve collected on supporters can provide valuable information, from areas where you can improve your stewardship efforts with current donors to opportunities where you can engage potential supporters.

However, your donor data won’t provide nearly enough information if you’ve had subpar data management practices in the past. “Dirty” data, or data that is flawed and inaccurate, is both easy to introduce to your database and detrimental to the value of that information overall.

As you wait for “normal” to return, spend some time ensuring your nonprofit is well-positioned to make the most of your donor data once the world reopens. Begin with an audit of your database, addressing key issues such as incorrect, duplicate, or even excess information.

Then, create consistent data hygiene practices to carry your organization forward. This includes:

  • Standardization in data entry procedures. Whether addresses, phone numbers, formal titles, or other commonly-abbreviated identifiers, ensure you’ve outlined clear procedures for handling the entry of those terms.
  • Outlined processes for fixing errors. When staff members encounter an error, whether duplicate, incomplete, or generally incorrect information, ensure they know the next steps to take to alleviate the error.
  • Removal of unhelpful information. Ensure that records labeled “Do Not Mail,” “Do Not Call,” and anything relating to minors are purged or otherwise dealt within your database.

After outlining data hygiene procedures, ensure they’re clearly communicated to your staff members. This ensures that everyone is implementing the practices consistently across the organization, preventing the need for a mass database cleanse in the future.

Optimize digital giving methods.

Per recommendations from the CDC, it’s necessary for people to maintain a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from others in all public spaces.  Even further, they recommend the cancellation of any gatherings over 10 people. Across the globe, stay-at-home orders have gone into place formalizing these recommendations.

For nonprofits, this means that all fundraising events and in-person interactions with supporters are canceled for the near future. This means that these organizations have to pivot to digital fundraising methods.

Luckily, there are a variety of ways your nonprofit can raise funds online. 

You could create a digital giving page attached to your website, organize a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, or even simply create a crowdfunding page on a popular platform. However, beyond those overview decisions, there are also minute details for your organization to decide. Which payment methods are you going to provide outlets for? How are you going to spread the word about your new digital fundraising capabilities?

Needless to say, the decision to raise funds online is a bit more complicated than that initial declaration. Thankfully, data can help your nonprofit’s transition to digital fundraising easier.

Turn to your data for answers to the following questions:

  • Which platform should you use to raise funds online? Look at the ways supporters have interacted with your organization online in the past. If your organization sees little social media interaction but high web traffic, that’s one sign you should optimize a digital giving page on your website rather than focus on social fundraising methods.
  • Which payment methods should you optimize? Turn to your donation information from previous campaigns. Were there certain payment methods donors relied on, such as checks, credit/debit cards, or even payment aggregators such as PayPal or Stripe?
  • How should you share your digital fundraising opportunities with donors? Once again, turn to the areas where supporters have interacted with your organization online. This could be a popular email newsletter, social media, or even your website. Use those platforms to spread the word about your digital fundraising efforts.

To learn more about optimizing digital giving methods, check out this Donately guide to online donation tools.

Perfect your fundraising ask.

During times of ongoing economic downturn such as these, you may feel apprehensive about asking supporters for donations toward your cause. Despite that, it’s essential that nonprofits continue fundraising during this time.

One way to combat that apprehension is to perfect your fundraising ask with the help of data. By making the perfect ask, specifically tailored to each of your donors, you’re more likely to be successful.

One timely example of this is the #GivingTuesdayNow campaign, held by the same organization that coordinates the yearly #GivingTuesday. This campaign has designated a new day of charitable giving set for May 5 as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and your organization can participate.

Data can play a direct role in your involvement in this campaign. Simply look back into your fundraising data from 2019 and see which donors gave to your organization as part of year-end giving. Potentially, examine historical data from the past 1-5 years to see regular year-end supporters.

Then, contact those supporters for your #GivingTuesdayNow campaign. Ask those donors if they’re able and willing to make their year-end gift now, rather than later. 

In addition to year-end giving, there are other data-driven indicators that you can look for to perfect your fundraising ask. For example, you can look for supporters who have a  high capacity and affinity to give, and reach out to them with a tailored gift ask that matches the engagement level those data points suggest.

Basing your communications strategy on data in this way is called data marketing, something you can learn more about in this AccuData guide.

Discover new opportunities for engagement.

Finally, during a time when many nonprofits are feeling hard-pressed for funding and struggling to communicate with supporters, data can be a powerful tool in discovering new opportunities for engagement.

Let’s dive into a few examples of how data can point to avenues for engagement:

The discovery of new sources for funding

A deep dive into your data can help you discover potential sources of funding you were previously unaware of. For example, with the rise of donor-advised funds, you can also use data to discover current or potential supporters who have contributed to a DAF.

Then, you can begin stewarding those supporters to see if they’ll direct their DAF funds toward your organization. This is one way they can give to your organization without paying any more during this uncertain time.

Further, by conducting prospect research, your organization can discover those most likely to make major gifts toward your cause. While they may not be making these major contributions right now, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start building relationships with those supporters during this time.

The discovery of new platforms for communication 

Each digital interaction between your organization and a supporter provides a data point, and that holds true for communication methods. 

By examining data regarding the success of your past communication efforts— for example, which methods had the highest engagement/open rate— you can optimize your communication strategy to rely on those methods. Further, if you discover that your supporters have been historically receptive to innovative communications (e.g. social media or live streaming), you can continue experimenting with new communication tools.

The nonprofit sector has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, during a time when these organizations are needed more than ever.

There’s a variety of resources available for your nonprofit to explore (check out this COVID-19 resources for nonprofits page to start). However, you already have one of the most powerful tools to weather the storm in your arsenal: your data.

Consider these data-driven tips to weather the COVID-19 crisis and continue providing needed services to constituents. The work your organization does now will have positive effects for years to come!

Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA, Director of Marketing

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.


COVID-19 Response: 4 Data-Driven Ways to Improve Operations