Your Philanthropy Success Depends on Finding a Partner, Not a Product

The non-profit economy is used to the “do more with less” approach. Fundraising and development departments are no exception. The need to keep costs low and stretch resources so monies can be spent furthering the organization’s mission requires strong data resources to be successful.

But what happens when the data required to net more donations are treated as a product bought from providers with no expertise in non-profits? Bad things occur. The search for tomorrow’s donors devolves into a wild goose chase, wasting time and money, two resources no non-profit can spare. 

Understanding How This Might Happen

To understand just how easy this nightmare might happen, consider what happened with New Coke. The Coca-Cola Company began formulating it in the mid-eighties, and its launch is widely acknowledged as the biggest marketing blunder of all time. In fact, the resulting backlash was so intense against New Coke the company had to quickly discontinue it, relaunching Classic Coke to great (and desperately needed) fanfare. 

But back to the problem. The Coca-Cola Company bungled things so badly that some people might assume the new drink was conceived and launched without gathering consumer feedback at all. The opposite is true. Coca-Cola collected plenty of data, but it wasn’t the right type, which always produces the wrong answer to important questions, like “Are we targeting the right people in our community?”


Here’s a little background on the debacle. Before launching New Coke, Coca-Cola gathered data from almost 200,000 people through blind taste tests. Testers were given unlabeled cups containing New Coke, Classic Coke, and Pepsi then asked to rank their flavor. 

As it turns out, New Coke, formulated to taste much sweeter than Coke Classic, was the overwhelming favorite for testers, leading the company to believe they had a major winner on their hands. But Coca-Cola’s data was dead wrong for two different reasons—both of which are relatable to non-profits. 

First Issue

The first issue concerns a failure to gather data on real-world usage. Coca-Cola’s taste test data was based on sip tests, where the consumer takes just a small drink of each product. But in the real world, people don’t drink Coke by the sip, but typically by the can or large cup. 

Unfortunately, New Coke’s sweetness appeal on the first sip quickly soured when drinking a larger quantity. In the same way, data used by non-profits can give the wrong impression if the data vendor’s presentation is unclear or flawed. Often, these vendors have little to no expertise in this field, so they can’t grasp how non-profits need to use their products. 

Second Issue

The second breakdown of Coca-Cola’s approach to data is they failed to measure brand affinity. The company’s data collection and analysis focused strictly on taste, a one-dimensional view not unlike the legacy approach of non-profits emphasizing wealth data. What the company didn’t understand was the great level of affinity many Americans felt toward this brand. 


When collecting memorabilia associated with your brand has become a booming hobby; it means the public does indeed possess a strong affinity to your organization. By not only changing its flagship product but also discontinuing the classic formula, Coca-Cola upset its most fervent supporters and customers. The lesson non-profits can take from part two of this fiasco is the need to discern what builds affinity between potential donors and your organization, and how to generate more such connections while also paying respect to those supporters already emotionally tied to your mission.

Why Build a Partnership with DonorSearch?

Based on Coca-Cola’s bad experience with data, you may be wondering how non-profit organizations with a small percentage of this mighty consumer brand’s budget can avoid similar mistakes. One way is to build a partnership with DonorSearch. Why? Our company combines cutting-edge data expertise with a deep understanding of the non-profit market. 

To this point, the number one thing our team hears from new clients is the night-and-day difference in customer support between us and the competition. We view our relationships as partnerships and empower our partners’ success via education and hands-on assistance. (It isn’t unusual to hear our senior engineers on the phone with a client helping them build a query to get just what they need, saving precious hours in the process.)

Certainly, acquiring the right data is critical in non-profit fundraising, but data doesn’t do anything by itself. You need to know how to leverage it for optimal results. DonorSearch, therefore, works closely with clients to help them gain this understanding, turning guesswork into data-driven triumphs. 

By the same token, merely buying a data product will never match the partnership model to achieving your organization’s goals. If you are ready to create a better tomorrow by taking fundraising to a whole new level, please contact our team of experts to arrange your demo with DonorSearch Aristotle today. 

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