Saturday, October 25, 2008

It is all about data. But what data? Part I - environmental

Really, when it comes to fundraising there are only two types of data of great interest for the empirical approach to information. Environmental and internal (analytical) data. There are other data sets out there. For example market research, which is usually about opinion or intentions and personal data which is not really relevant for this discussion.

So what empirical data is crucial to your planning? Let’s concentrate on the financial data available within the environmental and internal data available.

Environmental data is the big picture stuff. What is happening beyond your charity. This can be broken into two, historical and contemporary. Both of those can be broken into three bits:

1) The economy. Beyond charities – how much do people have?

2) The fundraising business. How much are people giving? (And how much did they give last time something like this happened).

3) Product or activity data. Breaking down types of fundraising; eg how is corporate fundraising doing? What about regular (monthly) giving? (And again, what about last time?)

The key measures you should keep an eye on are below. How much attention you need to spend on them will depend on your fundraising mix.

Unemployment - influences corporate giving and individual giving
Surely increased unemployment will effect giving? People without jobs will have to re-prioritise.

Property prices - influences legacies
Look at your legacies (bequests) in detail and you will see that much of the value is realised from sale of property. So, if property values decrease so will your legacy values.

Share indexes - influences high net worth individuals (major donors), trusts, foundations, and legacies
Understanding where your big donors' wealth comes from will be handy when talking to them, but for many their money will be invested in stocks and shares. Most trusts and foundations' portfolios will also be hit. And of course, the second biggest contributor to deceased estates is usually stocks and shares.

Actual giving trends (not giving intentions but actual giving) – the best source is from compiling your data in a charity benchmarking program like Pareto Fundraising Benchmarking* or Blackbaud’s Donor Analytics. These programs provide direct comparisions, standardising data sets giving us like for like comparisions.

Looking at historical data here is useful, but not definitive. For example, a paper claims that during the 90s recession, giving declined - but how much of that decline was caused by 'recession suicide'? Looking at individual charities (such as real world case study, NSPCC) we see that

In Part II, to be published on this blog on the 28th November, I will be looking at internal - or analytical data.

Fiona Paterson

Head of Global Data Services, Pareto Fundraising

* For more information on Pareto Benchmarking in any country/region please email our insights team.

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