Beyond the Pie: Fundraising Data, It’s More than Pretty Charts

Tim Sarrantonio

This is part nine of our blog series A Fundraiser’s Guide to the Annual Fund. Our team will be exploring how to turn your database into an integral tool for raising the general operational funds necessary for your success.

It is never too early to start thinking about reporting on the successes and challenges for your annual fund. Yet many fundraisers get hung up on presentation of the data and don’t spend the time analyzing what story your data is telling you.

A point to mention before we delve into our discussion: if you aren’t yet using a donor database to help you manage your annual fund data, you really should be.

These platforms will make both collecting your data and reporting on it much more straightforward. You’ll be able to achieve more comprehensive data tracking, and you’ll be equipped with reporting and analytics features that can give you much more accurate and detailed insights into how you’re performing.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!

Start with questions
One of the biggest issues that nonprofits have is inaccurate or spotty reporting. All that math to calculate! Ugh! But since you’ve already laid out benchmarks for success, your organization will want to see how well they are doing in comparison to your internal standards.

In fact, many experts point to the fact that nonprofits collect a lot of data but just aren’t using it well. So when it comes to reporting on how your annual fund is doing, take a critical approach by asking hard questions:

  • Is a particular appeal doing better or worse than expected?
  • Can you modify your appeal language to make it snappier or more concise?
  • Can your organization be more detailed in its communications?

Fundraising versus Financial Reporting
One of the most important paradigm shifts that organizations need to make is to understand the huge difference between fundraising reporting and financial reporting.  There may be times that the development department and the finance department aren’t even speaking the same language!

So when your organization is developing reports for analysis of your annual fund campaign, make sure that everyone is on the same page for the goals of reporting.  There are many questions that come up when it comes to the actual process of managing the money coming in and this will extend to the reporting side.

Use your accounting software to quantify your annual fund, but use your donation CRM to ensure that you are qualifying the revenue coming in!

Beyond the pie chart
Visualization of data is important to many nonprofit organizations and there are tons of strategies to integrate graphs, charts, and other ways to see your raw data showcased in a bright and colorful way.  Many CRMs have some charts and graphs built into their software as well, but the most important approach to understanding data is to identify the story that it is telling.

Data visualization’s ultimate goal is to tell a story of how your organization’s annual fund is doing.  Which donors increased their giving? Which donors didn’t give this year but did last year? Is there a specific segmentation or appeal that did better this year? Pie charts can assist in telling a story, but asking the right questions first will ensure that your organization can grow its revenue for years to come.

For more on all things annual fund, make sure to check out our guide! It includes some excellent tips on how to raise more and cultivate the loyal donors that will help you keep raising more in the future, too.

Got a question, comment, criticism, or concern? We’re here to listen, we’re here to help, and we’re here to learn. Leave something below or reach out to me directly at tim@z2systems.com. I look forward to continuing the conversation!

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