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.


9 thoughts on “Wisdom Wednesdays: When an Analyst Calls – Part 1

  1. Great post Heather!! Thanks for this important reminder. Often we allocate large amounts of money towards tools to track donor information, but fail to implement it properly. I look forward to Part 2.

    • Thanks, Matthew! You’re absolutely right–investing in the tracking tools but neglecting to use the information is all too common.

  2. Wow! Excellent post Heather!!!

    I see this donor analytics fear every day … I would love the opportunity to chat with you … Send me your contact info or connect with me on LinkedIn …


  3. Thanks Heather for offering a great article. I am 3 years into developing an internal learning analytic program at my company, which is a bundling of learning management system data, course data, web usage data, and a couple other data streams, and I have encountered this fear time and time again. Looking forward to Part II.

    • Thanks, Doug! You used a very important word: learning! You can learn so much about your constituents & your performance through analytics, which should be a welcome opportunity for anyone who wants their organization to succeed & grow.

  4. Thanks, Doug! You used a very important word: learning! You can learn so much about your constituents & your performance through analytics, which should be a welcome opportunity for anyone who wants their organization to succeed & grow.

  5. Pingback: Wisdom Wednesdays: Part 2 – When an Analyst Calls Back | ALDE

  6. Pingback: Wisdom Wednesdays: How Does Your Data Match Up? | ALDE

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