Wisdom Wednesdays: Part 2 – When an Analyst Calls Back

by Heather McGinness, CFRE

Read Part 1: “When an Analyst Calls”

We left off last week with the shocking revelation that the mysterious calls asking, “Have you checked the data?,” were coming from inside the office.  Who would do such a thing, and why?  Believe it or not, there are plenty of people in your organization with motive to get you into data analysis.  Let’s take a look at some of the departments that may be harboring suspects:

when a stranger calls 2Finance & Accounting – Those seemingly mild-mannered folks who spend entire days looking at numbers would desperately love for you to spend some time doing the same!  Your activities generate expenses that impact the budget’s bottom line.  Are you sending mailings to segmented groups using tailored messages, rather than sending the same blanket mailing to everyone in your database?  Do you plan your travel with the intent to engage one-on-one with constituents with high capacity ratings and visit regions where there is a critical mass of donors? If you’re not strategically choosing actions that will produce a maximum return on investment, you’re not being a good steward of resources.   What about budget forecasting and planning?  Are you monitoring revenue streams and identifying trends that will help you accurately predict your numbers, which in turn help overall organizational planning?  Or are you applying a flat percentage to last year’s numbers and calling it a day?  Depending on how you answer these questions, you might not want to pass by the accounting office alone.

Programs – You may not see them on a daily basis, but your dedicated colleagues who are out in the field putting your organization’s mission into action are affected by all you do.  They want to be able to plan their activities and have an idea of resources available to them.  They want to know who their ardent supporters are and have a cadre of donors to go to for special above and beyond initiatives or emergencies.  All those things require you having that information!  Do you know which constituents respond the strongest to specific programming and are you engaging them accordingly?  Do you know which donors have a track record of giving to new projects or pilot programs?  The programs would like you to know!

Leadership – Beyond evaluating your performance and being responsible for the overall health of your organization, the leadership team (the President/CEO or Executive Director, along with the Board of Trustees) can have significant impact and influence on giving to the organization.  Have you assigned them portfolios?  If so, are those assignments based on long-range capacity?  Are you helping your leaders leverage key peer relationships to acquire new major donors or corporate connections?  Do you know the peer and corporate connections to which they have access?  If you’re answering no to these questions, you’re not making the best use of your leaders’ time … and it’s never a good idea to waste the boss’s time or, even worse, to not involve them at all.

Development – Even your team could be turning on you!  You expect high quality performance from them and give them goals, but are you equipping them with the right tools to be successful?  Do they have the right mix of individuals in their portfolios, based on their role in your team, or are assignments made arbitrarily?  Do they have access to wealth screening results and, if so, have they been trained to interpret that information?  Are their activities prioritized, and on what information is that prioritization based?  These are all important questions, and analytics can help you answer all of them.  If you’re ignoring them, you may have a mutiny on your hands!

Effective use of data can have a profound impact on the success of your organization, your team and your own efforts.  It’s no wonder that if you’re not routinely doing some analytic work, everyone could be a suspect for making those terrorizing phone calls.  Well, almost everyone.   There’s one group of people who are begging for you to look at the numbers, who have a vested interest in wanting you to make best use of time and resources.  I’m talking about your donors.  They won’t call and ask you to check the data, though.  They’ll simply communicate through their giving — or lack thereof.  Now THAT’S scary!

So, it’s time to ask…

Have you checked the data?

Heather R. McGinness, CNM, CFRE left the last haunted house she visited in tears, and much prefers certain friendly monsters who share her love for numbers and penchant for cookies.  She is a Philanthropic Advisor (& occasional Data Whisperer) for Lutheran World Relief.


Wisdom Wednesdays: When an Analyst Calls – Part 1

by Heather McGinness, CFRE

SCENE: An office, midday.  A lone Development Professional (DP) sits at a desk, quietly working on a computer.  A phone call breaks the silence.

[Telephone rings]

DP: Hello, Development Office.  May I help you?

Caller: …

DP: Hello?  This is the Development Office, how may I help you?

Caller: [ominously whispered] Have you checked the data?

DP: Pardon me?  Who are you trying to reach?

Caller: [louder] Have you checked the data?

DP: [frightened] Who is this?  What do you want?!?

Caller: Have … you … checked … the data?

DP: [screams, hangs up, runs out of the office]



The dark.  Heights.  Spiders.  There are many things that scare people, but there’s one thing that seems to strike fear into the hearts of many development professionals: data analysis.  Did you shudder just reading it?  They are two words that can cause otherwise fearless professionals to hide under their desks.  I’m not sure what provokes this common, adverse reaction, but fear no more!  I’m here to shine a flashlight into that dark corner of development and show you that it’s not so spooky.  In fact, data analysis is probably the most helpful practice for you as a professional, as well as for your organization and even your donors.  By taking the time to review information you’re capturing in your database, you can strengthen your development program, create and modify strategies and more effectively interact with your constituents.

Analyzing the numbers and identifying patterns within revenue streams allows you to direct your program efforts to segments where they will have the most impact.  Which of your annual fund donors have been steadily increasing their giving?  Find out and get them into a moves management program where they will receive the attention needed to cultivate them into major donors.  Do you have a critical mass of high frequency donors?  Perhaps it’s time to launch a monthly giving program, increasing efficiency while offering more convenience to that group.  What about loyal donors, those true-blue friends of your organization who have been giving for several consecutive years?  Have you identified them as prospects for your planned giving program?  These are only a few examples of how data can help inform your activities.

I get it.  Pulling reports and queries can be intimidating the first few times and, once you have them, it takes time to sift through the information.  Isn’t it worth facing those fears for the good of your organization, though?  If the database technology is an issue, or if you’re just unsure about where to begin (and fear of the unknown is common), consider engaging a consultant, colleague or a fellow ALDE member.  There is strength in numbers — pun intended.  Think of data as your navigator, helping you and your organization travel safely to your goals via the most direct route.  Isn’t it scarier to be wandering blindly without a guide?  Overcome your anxiety and move forward with confidence, data in hand!

So, when you receive a mysterious phone call, asking if you’ve checked the data, how will you answer?

Next week: We’ve traced the calls and they’re coming from inside the office!

Heather R. McGinness, CNM, CFRE left the last haunted house she visited in tears, and much prefers certain friendly monsters who share her love for numbers and penchant for cookies.  She is a Philanthropic Advisor (& occasional Data Whisperer) for Lutheran World Relief.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Are You Ready for Your (Social Media) Marathon? – Part 2

by Gretchen Jameson

In her last post, Gretchen discussed how implementing an effective social media strategy won’t happen overnight — it’s a marathon.  Read on in this week’s post as she outlines how to train for success.  

Here are three things to consider as you craft your Social Media Marathon Plan:

1. Fuel up

Making the decision to run a marathon isn’t just about clearing time in your schedule for more running.  Training requires research, planning and adopting a lifestyle that will allow you to fuel up, perform well and stay healthy.

Before you post one more status update or Tweet, make sure you understand your target (seriously, read that again … I’m talking about really understanding them, not just casting them into the script you’ve already written for how they “should” behave): what social platforms are they on?  Which ones do they plan to join?  Which ones do they trust?  Consider an absolute waste of time?  Fuel up with data and that data comes from listening to your audience and putting what you learn to work.

Spend time training your team, identifying the skills your staff or volunteers have that can be used effectively in your social media efforts and where there is a need for increased competency.  Read, read, read.

Prep your internal mindset for optimum social performance.  Social on the outside requires an appreciation for social on the inside of your nonprofit: your leadership, board members, staff.  Spend time building your case, gain more than buy-in for your plan.  Cultivate enthusiasm and trust as you champion the social media “run,” as well.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize

Not many of us jump out of bed and make it to 26.2 by running random mileage over the course of a random number of weeks.  Social media success isn’t random either.

You must write a plan.  You absolutely need to know where you are headed and how to recognize when you get there.

Your plan should focus on the next two quarters of your activity.  Solid plans include the goals for your social media engagement (and these should belly-up to your larger communications goals); measurable objectives (who will do what by when and how will we know we did it); clear strategies; appropriate tactics (sustainable, measurable, etc.); action plans (budget, timetable, assignments).

When we don’t plan, we cast social media as a fad and not as one of the most powerful communications tools at our disposal.  Treat social media with the same planned purpose as your direct mail, marketing communications, broadcast media, etc.  If you take it for granted in your planning, your CEO has every reason to doubt the efficacy of social media no matter how hard you try to convince him or her otherwise.

3. Give yourself time

None of us will have immediate success.  If I thought I could run 26.2 miles during my first or even second month of tMarathonraining, I am wasting my time at this entire endeavor and will wind up feeling defeated, sore and frustrated.

Similarly, trying to go 26.2 social-media-miles without spending time building up social media capital (your endurance), is unrealistic.  You’ve got to plan well, plan reasonably and be willing to give your efforts due time to pay off.  Doing this well requires managing expectations (particularly with your CEO or Director and your board members) and making sure that you’ve allocated appropriate resources (human and financial) to get the job done over the long haul.

So as you prepare for a long, hot summer (or are already well into it), dig into your social media routine.  Make some changes.  Deepen your practice.  Train for the marathon, and save the sprinting for your victory lap.

Gretchen Jameson is the Founder and Principal of purePR, a communications strategy firm focused on helping nonprofit clients amplify their mission messages.  Connect with her on Twitter or join purePR on Facebook.