How Nonprofits Can Turn Data into Dollars

Data is one of the most powerful tools a nonprofit has for improving revenue. Through effective use of peer-to-peer fundraising data, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has grown their signature NAMIWalks series, in both dollars and number of events, each year they’ve been on DonorDrive. They now support 85 walks. Recently, I had the privilege of presenting Turning Data into Dollars with Kris Eschman, NAMI’s Manager for Fund Development and Events, at the NAMI National Convention in New Orleans. Our presentation, and DonorDrive’s one-on-one Innovation Lab that followed, were designed to help NAMI affiliates understand the value of their walk data and how to make their walks more successful.

The Innovation Lab: Taking data to the affiliates

With many signature events, data is often examined closely at the national level, but not given the same priority at the chapter or affiliate level. NAMI has worked to encourage affiliates to use data from their individual walk in DonorDrive. In preparation for our Innovation Lab, Anne Baum (Director of Marketing Services) and Meghan Nash (Digital Marketing Strategist) at DonorDrive, helped created a scorecard for each NAMIWalk. We examined the key metrics of retention, revenue, and fundraiser activation individually with each affiliate walk manager. In our conversations, we also used the dashboard in DonorDrive’s Event Insights to compare their walk, year-over-year, to find opportunities for improvement.

In the lab, we took walk managers through the steps of being more data informed: finding goals, understanding key performance indicators, and using those to measure goals. Then we gave best practices to respond to what we saw in the data. For example, if the Event Performance Monitor showed a drop in key metrics, we had recommendations of ways to bring those numbers back up. Quite a few of the NAMI affiliates we talked with became more engaged in using data to better their event.

A big thing that affiliates were excited about was the ability to customize notifications for their walks in DonorDrive. The national office sets up a proven set of scheduled notifications for participants as part of DonorDrive’s Fundraising Motivation Engine®. These communications are designed to help guide participant success at various stages of fundraising before the event. Many of the walk managers realized how effective customizing these in their own voice could be.

Practical use of data: Better teams

A big part of NAMIWalks continued growth has been from their emphasis on teams. Overall, 87% of participants in NAMIWalks are on a family, community or corporate team. In events that rely so heavily on teams, team captains are the key to recruiting and motivating team members. They also raise more money than anyone else. For both the presentation and the lab, we focused on coaching good team captains to become great team captains. Some of the best practices NAMI encourages for team captains (as well as all participants):

  • Opting-in to receive Fundraising Motivation Engine text messages raises two times more than the average participant.
  • Connecting social media to DonorDrive raises four times more.
  • Uploading an avatar raises seven times more.
  • Telling their story on the fundraising page raises nine times more.

We also know that returning team captains for NAMIWalks raise three times as much as new captains, so there’s a strong emphasis on helping new captains to be successful so they come back the next year. Likewise, there’s also encouragement for team captains to get their team members to return, since returning team members raise four times as much as new team members.

Over the past two years NAMI’s efforts with team captains have already increased their personal fundraising by 36%. We looked for opportunities for walk managers to fine-tune the success of their captains through best practices, like getting captains to set fundraising goals on their DonorDrive pages and urging them to self-donate. We know with NAMI, those that self-donate raise almost 10 times more than those who don’t, so that’s something well worth pushing.

Our Innovation Lab was a big success. In explaining the scorecards we’d created and examining up-to-the minute data in DonorDrive’s Event Performance Monitor, walk managers were receptive, engaged, asked questions, and wanted to know where they could improve. They also had some good feedback on more insights that could be added to the dashboard as well. We really enjoyed the opportunity of meeting dozens of walk managers face-to-face and in helping to give so many a better understanding of their data.

Check out the video of Jim's presentation.

Ready to explore how DonorDrive can help you?