The First Steps to Analyzing and Understanding Program Performance
Your boss pokes her head into your office doorway and asks how the annual fund is doing. You respond (proudly) that it’s up compared to last year and on track to hit its goal. She nods and gives you a smile to suggest that she’s pleased with the news. But then she throws out another question. This one catches you a little off-guard.
“Do you know why we’re up?” she asks.
There’s an awkward silence for a few seconds, which (to you) feels like a few minutes. You begin to mumble something about higher quality appeals or a better economy or something like that until you stop and, looking embarrassed, admit the truth.
“I don’t know,” you reply.
Little has improved the field of annual giving in recent years more than data and analytics. The ability to harness and mine information empowers programs to identify and understand prospects, deploy resources in efficient and effective ways, and report progress in real time. Better access to data also allows annual giving professionals to pinpoint trends and explain which factors are contributing to their program’s performance.
In this case, start by looking for changes in donors or dollars within the three key donor behavior segments: new donors, retained donors and reactivated donors. Then look for similar changes among key constituencies, fund designations, solicitation channels or gift amount ranges. Recognizing such changes (also known as “gaps” or as “variance”) may provide insight, but is also the first step in addressing shortcomings before it’s too late.
Access to data doesn’t mean that you need to have all of the answers all of the time. You do, however, need to know how to go about finding the answers. So follow up your “I don’t know” with, “But I can find out.”
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