Need money to support your school and its programs? Fortunately, it’s a great time to fundraise as an educational institution. Research shows that in 2022 K-12 schools saw a 5.7% increase in overall fundraising and a nearly 13% boost in online giving alone. But while there are willing, generous supporters out there, it’s up to you to rally their support.
It can be hard to motivate students’ parents, relatives, and other community members to give to your fundraiser. And even if you choose the perfect fundraising idea, have great supporter turnout, and meet your goals for this year, how can you be sure that you’ll achieve the same or better results next time?
Collecting and analyzing your fundraising data is the key to understanding and replicating your school’s fundraising successes. In this guide, we’ll cover three steps for using fundraising data to improve future fundraisers:
- Learn about your donors.
- Analyze your marketing efforts.
- Evaluate campaign results.
To get started, let’s explore how you can get to know donors and create a customized fundraising appeal that inspires them to support your school.
Step 1: Learn about your donors.
GivingDNA’s guide to data analytics explains that “donors come from varied backgrounds, have different life experiences, and have unique reasons for giving to your organization.” This means that to understand which strategies work best for them, you’ll need to look at past and current donor data.
Here are some of the basic types of donor data and what they can tell you about your supporters:
- Demographics. This data tells you about donors’ baseline characteristics. It includes socioeconomic traits like age, gender, race, income, education, marital status, and more. For example, if you know that in the past your donors have been parents of students, are between the ages of 35 and 55, and have an average income of $50,000 or more, you can tailor your efforts to the typical preferences of those demographics.
- Psychographics. This data tells you more about your donors’ lifestyles. It should reveal information like their morals, values, political leanings, hobbies, and interests. Let’s say you learn that a group of parents plays tennis together each weekend. This makes them a great target audience for your initiative to raise money for renovations on your tennis court.
- Involvement history. This reveals a donor’s past involvement with your school, such as donations made, events attended, or hours volunteered. Pay attention to average gift size and when donors made their last contribution to identify major donors as well as those at risk of lapsing. Once you know who they are, you can send tailored messages that suit their level of involvement and dedication.
- Communication preferences. Everyone has preferred communication platforms, whether that’s receiving a personal phone call from your school or engaging with your social media posts. Reaching your audience where they already are shows that you understand and value those preferences. Plus, donors will be more likely to see the messages you send them.
- Wealth indicators. These markers signal your donors’ giving capacity, or the amount they are able to donate. Keep in mind that this is different from giving affinity, which indicates their willingness to give to you. When you have an idea of a donor’s wealth through information about their household income, past donations, employer, or stock and real estate holdings, you’ll have a better idea of what donation amount to ask for from them.
Make sure you are correctly managing your donor data to ensure it stays organized and up-to-date. Keep data fresh by collecting information about supporters via donation forms and surveys, making sure to prioritize data security. Additionally, you can work with a data appending service to fill in any information gaps.
Step 2: Analyze your marketing efforts.
Once you know who your donors are and what makes them want to give to your school, you need to translate those findings into actionable next steps. In other words, you’ll tailor your marketing efforts to the preferences and motivations of your target audience.
Here’s how data can shape marketing efforts for each communication channel:
- Digital marketing. Your digital marketing efforts can include your website, social media posts, email marketing, and more. This channel is one of the most flexible and adaptable, making it extremely easy to create text, images, videos, and other content that pinpoints donors’ motivations. For example, you might design two marketing emails with slightly different strategies and perform an A/B test to see which strategy is most effective. Then, you can edit and adjust your email marketing tactics for better results.
- Direct mail. Because direct mail can be costly, it should only be sent to supporters who strongly prefer this form of communication and are likely to open and engage with the message. Make sure to use language, imagery, and stories tailored to those donors’ giving behaviors. If most recipients are students’ grandparents, for instance, you might tell a story that makes them feel nostalgic and inspired to provide fun experiences for the next generation. To track your direct mail success rate, add a unique, scannable QR code linking to your donation form and attribute donors who scan in to direct mail outreach.
- Out-of-home or outdoor. This channel includes any print signage or flyers you hang at school or in the community, ideally with language that matches your donors’ giving motivations. While it can be difficult to track how effective these efforts are, you can emulate the direct mail strategy and create unique QR codes linking to your website or donation page. To get even more specific, you might create a different code for each location to see which area gets the most engagement.
Make sure to share these results with your staff, teachers, or PTO to ensure everyone is on the same page when sharing about your campaign online. This way, all communications will feel cohesive and no efforts will go wasted due to ineffective marketing strategies.
Step 3: Evaluate campaign results.
It can be tempting to stop working on a campaign as soon as your fundraiser ends. However, it’s critical that you take the time to carefully analyze your results, learn about new donors, and understand how you can make future improvements.
Using your fundraising software, you can study data from each step of your fundraiser to see what worked well, identify opportunities for growth, and determine profitability. 99Pledges’ guide to kids’ fundraising ideas lays out the steps to a pledge fundraiser—let’s see how you can extract valuable data from each step in the process:
- Create a pledge fundraising campaign. By creating both a school- or campaign-wide fundraising page and individual pages for your participants, you’ll understand how many participants are contributing to your fundraising efforts.
- Ask participants to share their fundraising page. Track how participants share these pages and who engages with them. This way, you’ll get a feel for which communication channels the audience uses.
- Participants collect pledges from friends and family. Keep track of who donates to any of your donation pages. Gather as much data about each donor as you can from the donation form, making sure to cross-reference your database for repeat donors.
- Track campaign progress. As you fundraise, keep track of how many donors you have, your average gift size, and the total amount raised. Then at the end of the fundraiser, you can pick out trends in the data (e.g., a spike in donations after trying a new social media marketing tactic).
- Receive pledged donations. Once you receive all donations, you can determine the average donation amount, total revenue, and your ROI for the campaign. This is also when you’ll know whether you hit your goal and, ideally, be able to target what strategies got you there.
Regardless of what your results are, remember that it’s essential to steward your donors. Use your fundraising software or another communication tool to send them customized thank-you messages that acknowledge their contributions and convey your genuine gratitude. This will go a long way in cultivating a dedicated supporter base.
Data is only valuable if it is accurate, up-to-date, and organized. So, it’s essential to prioritize data hygiene by frequently auditing your files for outdated information, typos and other errors, duplicate entries, and data that is not entered in your standardized format. By committing to frequently cleaning your data, you’ll ensure that data insights are fresh and accurate to your donors’ current needs.