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By julia lindenmon

Trusting your gut is important when judging the character of a stranger or even ordering a deli sandwich. Our emotional reactions to the positive and negative results of our decisions give us valuable cues and clues that teach us patterns and preferences that reinforce those decisions.

When it comes to making high stakes decisions, like guiding the future of your nonprofit’s mission through effective and sustainable fundraising, relying on emotional or gut intuition and the status quo is simply not enough.

While emotion and empathy are cornerstones to nonprofit and charity missions, making fundraising decisions to ensure success must take a more active approach, a more conscious reasoning. The way to make that process easier is with clear, measurable data and specific goals from which conclusions can be drawn.

Insights into your donors via demographic data and philanthropic history provided by DonorSearch are important complements to the emotional intuition that comes with being a professional fundraiser. It allows your organization to be flexible, amounts to increased revenue, and ensures institutional longevity.

Data as a Love Language

Before measuring can take place, a shared understanding of data must be established. Volunteers, administrators, executive directors, and board members all tend to have a varying vocabulary when discussing the performance of a particular campaign, the overall health of the institution, or even talking about donors. This often results in a breakdown of communication and expectations.

By teaching everyone the love language of data, KPIs, and metrics, all parties can engage on a level field of understanding. As with communication in any relationship, this takes work. The results speak for themselves.

A report by the Harvard Business Review shows that “Leading Organizations are Adopting a Data-Driven Culture”. Though participants in the study veered into the for-profit or public sector, the conclusions are easily transferable to nonprofit organizations.

Those that established a common language for interpreting data and fostered a culture of data analysis overwhelmingly reported program and financial improvements as well as a reduction in risk and cost.

“As the benefits of analytics become clear, the technology moves deeper into the organization […] This enables individuals throughout […] to be more innovative and independent and to take calculated risks that align with corporate goals.” – HBR

Your organization will see growth opportunities when you boost your team’s data literacy and create a work environment that fosters a data-driven culture. Get started with this certified Crash Course in KPIs.

Here, you’ll learn to understand and track Key Performance Indicators like Fundraising ROI, and Donor Conversion Rate, the difference between Leading and Lagging Indicators, and how to tie them all together to tell a clear story of measurable impact.

Crystal Clear Data

Parsing through vast amounts of ones and zeros, names and addresses, email campaigns, fundraising successes, project deadlines, and volunteer engagement information can be a costly chore. Especially when the information you’re dutifully collecting is scattered across spreadsheets, ledgers, sticky notes, and long-erased voicemails.

Nonprofit specific CRMs (Constituent Relationship Management Software) are a boon for keeping your data readily available and crystal clear.

These systems are also known as Donor Management or Fundraising Software, yet the very best are all-encompassing. From one online database you can collect donor contact information through customizable sign-up or donation forms, issue government compliant tax receipts, send personalized email messaging, track fundraising and event goals, and more.

Differing user settings allow everyone at your organization to access the relevant information needed to do their job effectively.

Dashboards that clearly illustrate your data with graphs, charts, and widgets keep your most relevant data front and center so you’re never in the dark.

In-depth reporting functionality keeps every level of your nonprofit on the same page as you track relative success and identify areas of improvement.

Find the best CRM for your nonprofit here.

Garnering Insights

Even with good data, making sense of it all and deriving actionable insights that drive decision making can be a hurdle. Data analysis is not something that comes naturally to everyone.

Here are some clear tips to help you get the most out of your donor data and maximize your fundraising analytics.

1. Segment your donors- Filter your contacts into segments using historical data. For example:

  • Average Gift Size – Determine the average gift size among all your donors, then isolate those who skew towards having an above-average gift size.
  • Donor Score – Use your CRM to filter further and identify donors based on their donor score. If Keela is your CRM, this score is based on donor engagement, historical propensity for giving, and the total length of donor history among others.

Those with a high Donor Score may be more likely to give when asked. Those with low Donor Scores may need to be nurtured more with engaging communication before being propositioned with that all-important ask. Consider collecting more information on these contacts.

2. Dive into their DonorSearch Donor Profile: Once you have determined a group of contacts that you would like more information on, you can pull public data on them via DonorSearch.

DonorSearch provides demographics data as well as historical philanthropic and wealth information. The more you know about your donor’s story, the more personalized your outreach can be, resulting in a closer relationship and increased giving.


“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”

Zig Ziglar


When you have done the Preparation…

  1. Teaching the love language of data to your entire organization
  2. Centralizing your data in a nonprofit-specific CRM
  3. Learning to extrapolate meaning from your data and donor profiles

…You have the agility to meet any and all opportunities.

They may be difficult to identify at first. Changing times brings a change in data. No one could have known that COVID-19 was coming, and for many organizations, it remains a terribly tough time.

But, some who were able to pivot with the agility of a circus acrobat were successful.

Maintain the agility to take on new information and revise strategies. You’ll communicate your needs to those who are in a position to support you more effectively, and you’ll allocate resources to help those who need it most.

Priorities may shift and goals may change, but you won’t be floundering in the dark. Your data will guide your next moves and to continued success.

Increased Revenue

With data insights and agility in decision making, your organization is primed to increase fundraising revenue.


While you could decide how much to ask donors for with your gut, having your own personal data scientist do the work for you is foolproof.


Keela’s “Smart Ask” tool factors in a donors’ historical giving history and offers suggestions for your next ask amounts. It can even show these suggestions directly to donors through an emailed Smart Donation form, prompting them to donate a fair yet higher amount.


Down the line, this may mean you have a reserve of funds to last through a dry spell if donors are unable or unwilling to give, or you might even be able to dig deep and invest even more into outreach and programs to support the communities you serve.


With increased decision-making flexibility, and a resulting rise in fundraising revenue, you have the foundation to weather any storm.

To best keep an eye on that upward mobility and organizational longevity, here are two Leading Indicators to continuously measure and chart trend lines for.

1. Donor Retention Rate – Use the following equation to calculate your annual donor retention rate. The same principle can be applied to monthly tracking.

Keep in mind, a comprehensive CRM can churn out a report of names of those who Donated Last Year But Not This Year (LYBUNT)

If this rate is on an upward trend, rest assured that you are making the right choices to connect with your donors. If it dips down, more attention needs to be focused on the continued donor relationship nurturing. That may mean more significant impact reports or perhaps timelier thank you notes.

2. Average Donor Lifetime Value – While this calculation does not take into account donor attrition and gives you a gross, a growing trendline of donor lifetime value is highly indicative of organizational longevity.

When you see both these trend lines increasing over time, you know that you are on the right track and can face unpredictable circumstances.

How DonorSearch Integrates with Keela

Keela and DonorSearch have partnered to give nonprofit organizations even more donor insights to make the very best possible data-driven fundraising decisions.

As a nonprofit-specific CRM, Keela helps nonprofit organizations manage contacts, fundraise, send e-blasts, track projects, and whip up detailed reports–all with the added assistance of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

The addition of a DonorSearch hub allows organizational administrators to pull searches on public demographic, philanthropic, and stock holding data for individuals identified to be of high value or major donors within Keela.

With DonorSearch, you can learn the true market value of your current donors by diving into real estate value, prior board activity, giving history, and the unique DS ‘Propensity to Give’ Rating. Gut intuition could never get you this far. Make better fundraising decisions with data.

Don’t miss out on a single dollar, or a single second, when you access DonorSearch’s continuously updating contact records, all without ever having to leave the Keela system.

Insights Trump Intuition: The Importance of Data in Fundraising Decisions