How Data Can Drive Your Fundraising: A Conversation With Keela’s Philip Manzano

Finding time to gather and analyze data can be difficult, but it’s a crucial part of creating an effective nonprofit fundraising strategy. Get data-driven fundraising tips from Philip Manzano of Keela.

Philip Manzano

Head of Marketing and Communications at Keela

Who He Is:

Phil has worked as a communications professional within the sector at many levels: grassroots, local, regional and national. Now, he spends his time telling powerful stories of impact and is devoted to helping nonprofits do good better.


Q: Why bother gathering data?

A: It’s all about making informed decisions and knowing what aspects of your organization inspire your donors. Knowing what works and what doesn’t in your communications, campaigns, and events will help you avoid making random decisions based on feeling or habit, but rather have a clear, long-term plan without wasting your resources on ineffective processes. When gathering data, it is important to first reflect on what goal you want to achieve and what information you need to know in order to find out if you’re doing it right.

Q: How can data help nonprofits raise more money?

A: If your goal is to raise more money, you might want to gather data about:

  • Your donors’ giving history, including whether they’ve given once or multiple times—this will allow you to personalize communications
  • Your target donor demographics, including age, location, and interests
  • What drives people to engage with your organization
  • The cost per dollar raised for a fundraising campaign, and its evolution throughout one campaign and across different campaigns—this will give you hints about what works the best in your campaigns

Gathering data at regular times (e.g. monthly, annually) is also very beneficial. It will reveal giving patterns that can help inform your future fundraising efforts. It is also worth gathering data before and after a campaign to learn more about the campaign’s impact on your audience.

Q: How can data help build stronger relationships with donors?

A: If your goal is to strengthen your relationships with donors, you can gather data (with permission) about:

  • Donor status (lapsed or not)
  • Donor source—where do your donors come from? Where should you focus your efforts when reaching out to new donors?
  • Communication preferences—what channels of communications do your donors prefer? How can you adapt to them?

All this information can be collected through donor surveys, sent after an event or after a newsletter subscription, for example. This will help you understand what drives your donors to engage with your organization and communicate the value of your work as a fundraiser.

Q: How will data help you tell better stories?

A: If your goal is to tell better stories to your donors and volunteers in order to engage them with your work, there is important data to analyze:

  • Click rates and open rates for your emails
  • Subscribe and unsubscribe rates (weekly or monthly)
  • Results from donor surveys or feedback forms
  • Polls on Facebook and Twitter—this will show you what parts of your work resonate on social media

You can also gather some very qualitative and detailed data about donor experience in your in-person conversations with your donors.

Q: What are some common data collection missteps?

A: The greatest danger with data is confirmation bias. This means that you should not look for data and analyze it in a way that proves you right. Testing a hypothesis means you should not look for data and interpret it in a way that only confirms your thoughts. That’s because the goal of analyzing data is to find out what’s really effective about your work and what you need to do to improve it!

Another danger can be to store your data in different places, which complicates analysis. The best tool to store all your data together is Customer Relationship Management platform, often called a CRM. [Assess your nonprofit’s technology suite with this tool from Keela]. Otherwise, I would start with a spreadsheet with multiple tabs where you can store all your data about a campaign.

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