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Knowledge is power

Written by Antony Savvas
September 2016

Most charities will be aware of the importance of aggregating data in order to gain insight into who may be interested in their organisation. However, once they’ve got this data not many know how to get the most out of it when it comes to identifying the best leads.

Tracking data sources

Online leads can come in from various sources such as search engines, email marketing, banner advertising and social media, and it is important that charities can identify exactly which sources potential leads are coming from in order to streamline their marketing strategies.

By understanding how leads are generated through these marketing channels - using analytics and call tracking software - charities can allocate the right resources ahead of a campaign.

In addition to knowing who is looking at your website, it is also useful to know which regions or towns are generating the most traffic, so you can use the insight to focus your efforts. Organisations can do this using software to log users’ IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. And call tracking software can show how a lead got to the point of making a call, and perhaps then show why that lead didn’t convert.

Daniel Reilly, director of marketing analytics and call tracking provider Ruler Analytics, says: “By being able to analyse data properly charities can cut costs, improve communication and ensure marketing spend is going as far as possible. Organisations will be able to determine exactly where leads are coming from to make sure no effort goes to waste.”

Social media

Justin Khaksar, European managing director at social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, acknowledges that the third sector is operating in difficult circumstances when approaching data opportunities, but that it is moving in the right direction.

He says: “With smaller budgets and fewer resources, charities are often perceived as being behind the digital curve. However, we’re seeing many not-for-profits embrace data and analytics as a means of increasing effectiveness, and getting the most out of their small resource pool to make as big a difference as possible.”

Khaksar says: “We work and partner with a number of organisations, including Bloodwise, the United Nations and #GivingTuesday, to help them better communicate and increase funds through data-led insights from social media platforms.”

Khaksar says social media platforms provide one of the world’s biggest data sets, offering “honest, unsolicited consumer opinion with unprecedented reach levels”. By analysing conversations on these channels, charities can understand where and how they can find new supporters, while also ensuring they communicate in an effective way.

For example, he says, a charity whose clients may be part of an older generation, can use data insights from social platforms to understand how they can make their cause more relevant to a younger audience, who may have more time or financial means of supporting them.

Equally, by analysing where and when people are discussing an issue related to the cause, the charity can make sure content and activity is tailored to that audience – whether based on demographics or in response to a spike in conversation in a geographical area.

Using data-led insights to underpin the strategy for communications or fundraising campaigns, charities can ensure they operate with greater effectiveness and have the ability to measure the work they are doing and ensure they are making as big a difference as possible.

Bloodwise’s free help

In the case of Bloodwise, the specialist blood cancer charity hasn’t been slow coming forward to ask for voluntary help with its data management.

Owen Bowden, insight and analysis manager at Bloodwise, says: “Resources and budgets can of course be more limited at charities compared to other sectors, so access to enterprise data analytics platforms used in corporates is difficult. We’ve been able to get access to such platforms though a combination of luck, initiative and partnership.”

Bloodwise uses Pentaho, a business intelligence vendor used by huge organisations like Nasdaq. After initially starting with Pentaho’s basic open source product, the vendor learned of the charity’s adoption of its technology. It then helped Bloodwise design custom dashboards that pulled in and blended data from a variety of different sources to help it improve fundraising. It later donated the full enterprise version of it software along with consulting time.

Bowden says: “One of Pentaho’s top independent consultants, Dan Keeley, whose family had recently been affected by blood cancer, got wind of the project and offered to volunteer his time. Dan initially helped us develop our business intelligence capabilities using the data in our CiviCRM system.

“Since then, Dan has continued to advise us on our data strategy and has provided training to our internal insight team. Because both Pentaho and CiviCRM are open source technologies we’ve been able to share our experience in data reporting and management with other charities that use CiviCRM.”

As a result of the donated software and consulting time the charity has been able to up-skill internally to the point where it has built its own self-service BI (business intelligence) reporting system. This allows teams to access data from the charity’s events, CRM (customer relationship management), finance and budget systems and blend it. Users can now measure performance in ways never before possible.

“Our staff members, many of whom are not technical, save time by having quick, self-service data access and a single source of truth. They can generate their own reports without having to rely on specialists,” says Bowden.

Bloodline is currently now building a reporting system for its support help line, allowing it to measure call statistics, types of call and satisfaction from users. This includes integrating three different systems to allow a single view of the support line.

Mobile

An area where many charities are said to be ahead of the game in using analytics to generate more funds is in the mobile phone space. Mobile has become a hugely important channel for the charity sector, so much so that according to industry watchdog PhonepayPlus – which regulates phone premium services - the charity sector is now the largest market for mobile payments. So what are charities doing so right here?

In the last 18 months, some well publicised aggressive fundraising techniques, which have bordered on harassment, have stretched the relationship between some charities and their supporters to breaking point.

It would appear that some consumers now want to keep certain charities at arm’s length, which has forced organisations to become more intelligent about how they raise funds and engage with donors.

This has led to a marked increase in the use of data to drive more personalised communications.

While text donations are nothing new, what’s changing is that charities are getting a lot smarter about what happens after the point of donation. Charities are now waking-up to the benefits of fostering long-term relationships with their supporters, which is why mobile CRM is fast becoming the weapon of choice.

Charities used to look at their database as simply a list of mobile numbers. However, they are now using this data more intelligently to create micro-segments on their database, so that messages are much more targeted.

Mobile payments and messaging firm Fonix works with charities such as Children in Need and Comic/Sport Relief, helping them to use data more effectively to drive mobile donations and deeper donor engagement.

Rob Weisz, chief executive of Fonix, says: “In the last year, we’ve seen the average amount donated via text message shift from £5 towards £10, evidence of the increasing trust consumers now have in mobile. It’s now down to the charities to take advantage.”

Antony Savvas is a freelance journalist



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