Data transforms nonprofit marketing and fundraising strategies; by incorporating real supporter information, you can personalize your campaigns and build genuine relationships with your donors.

However, when your data is isolated in different systems, it can be difficult to generate useful insights. These isolated systems are called data silos, and they can prevent your team from unlocking key trends among your supporter base—limiting your outreach progress.

In this guide, we’ll provide steps you can take to break down data silos so your nonprofit can use its data to its fullest potential.

1. Establish data governance.

Start by developing clear policies, procedures, and guidelines for data management. These rules serve as a reference point for all team members handling data, ensuring consistency across your organization.

These policies should include areas like:

  • Standardization. Determine how you’d like staff members to input certain data types to standardize data entry. For example, if you’re inputting the dates of volunteer outings, decide if you’d like your team to use an MM/DD/YYYY or YYYY-MM-DD format.
  • Duplication. Let your team know how you’d like to handle duplicate entries, whether by merging these records or deleting extraneous records.
  • Verification. Survey your donors regularly to ensure the data you have stored for them is correct. You may also use tools like an email scrubbing tool to verify the accuracy of your supporter information.

Additionally, assign data stewardship responsibilities to different departments and team members to establish accountability. For example, when conducting prospect research, it’s important to have a point person for entering data, identifying those with high giving capacity in your database, and creating donor prospect profiles.

2. Invest in a centralized data platform.

With the right donor database or constituent relationship management (CRM) system, you can centralize your data and create a single source of truth for all valuable information your organization collects. Here, you may store data related to:

  • Donor or member management. General donor or member data—such as names, ages, contact information, and communication preferences—allow you to reach your constituents and personalize your communications with them.
  • Fundraising. Keep track of fundraising metrics—such as each donor’s individual gifts, your average donation amount, and donor retention rate—to assess your strategy.
  • Marketing. Campaign data you may collect includes email open rate, click-through rate, website traffic sources, and social media engagement. This information allows you to identify your marketing strengths and weaknesses so you can improve your approach.

When data from all your initiatives is in one platform, you can use it to inform these branches of your operations. For instance, use donor demographic information to create segments that allow you to run more targeted marketing campaigns or post metrics about your past fundraising campaign on social media to inspire your supporters to give.

3. Integrate your existing systems.

Integrating your existing tools with your database or CRM ensures that data flows seamlessly between platforms, eliminating the need for manual data entry and preventing database errors. Look to integrate the following tools with your CRM:

  • Fundraising platform. Add specific information about donors’ giving history to the donor profiles in your database to better segment your supporters and follow up with appropriate donation requests in the future.
  • Email marketing software. Upload contacts from your CRM to your email marketing software for broader reach, or create records for new email subscribers in your database. Then, you can automate email communications to certain segments and track email engagement metrics within your CRM.
  • Event management tools. Store important information from your event management tools in your CRM—such as attendee data, registration metrics, and funds raised—to power your future events.

As Double the Donation’s nonprofit data collection guide explains, choosing platforms that seamlessly integrate reduces the time and effort required for data management and allows your team to focus that energy on mission-critical activities instead.

4. Conduct regular data audits.

The more disparate data sources and systems your organization has, the more likely data errors and inconsistencies will occur. Prevent small data issues from spiraling into larger problems by conducting regular data audits.

Deep Sync’s data hygiene guide explains that auditing your data is the first step in the data hygiene process and provides a realistic view of the current state of your data before tackling any problem areas. Auditing your data with your fundraising or marketing goals in mind helps you focus your efforts on the data points you need for your campaign.

For example, if you’re looking to engage major donors in your upcoming capital campaign, narrow in on relevant data during your audit, such as giving capacity, donation history, and employment data. This exercise can also help you identify any gaps in your database and whether you need to conduct a data append to fill in this information.

5. Promote internal data sharing.

Communication among different team members and departments is the key to successful nonprofit operations. When you increase collaboration among your staff, they’ll share important data with each other and facilitate well-informed decision-making. Consider how you can encourage different departments to work together to improve your campaigns.

More formal ways that you can promote internal data sharing include:

  • Regular email updates with high-level overviews of each team’s current priorities
  • Monthly team meetings in which department leaders can explain their work in-depth and answer any questions
  • Collaborative tools like project management software and document-sharing platforms that make it easy for staff members to work together

Outside the workplace, you can also set up team-building events that allow staff members from different departments to get to know each other. Building this camaraderie empowers team members to work together and share data that helps each team develop a deeper understanding of your organization’s operations.

To run highly effective fundraising and data-driven marketing campaigns, you need to unify your data and ensure it’s consistent across teams and platforms. Breaking down data silos empowers you to base decisions on accurate information, strengthening your efforts and fueling your mission.

About the Author

Gabrielle Perham

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing & Sales Operations for Deep Sync. She joined the organization in 2017 and brings 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, sales enablement, and digital marketing. With a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude and a big-picture mindset, Gaby loves solving marketing and business challenges. She earned both a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa. Gaby enjoys spending time with her fiercely outspoken daughter; hiking and kayaking; rocking out in the first row of a live show; and giving back to her local community.

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