Sometimes Things Just Don’t Smell Right

January 19, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Some situations warrant using your intuition — first dates, any buying anything off Craigslist, sniffing that last piece of meatloaf. Making marketing decisions is not one of them.

Relying on intuition instead of facts and numbers can end up costing your organization cold, hard cash in the long run.

In their session on using data to discover the most effective marketing, a group consisting of John Perell from Friends of the Smithsonian, Sarah Stallings from National Geographic Society, Laura Connors from National Parks Conservation Association and Kerri Kerr from Avalon Consulting led a talk at the 2016 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference titled “Trust Your Data, Not Your Instincts.” Some advice they gave for best analyzing data included:

  • Use data to make a benchmark analysis to see how your organization stacks up against other organizations.
  • Many industry reports are readily available to investigate topics such as age trends. Reports such as these can help determine if the upfront cost of donors will match up with future revenue. Target Analytics, Blackbaud, M+R, and Giving USA provide industry updates and benchmarking information.
  • Creating focus groups and distributing member surveys can answer questions such as “Why do my members give to my organization?” and “What messages and topics do our members respond best to?” Rather than using guesswork or anecdotal feedback, this can provide quantitative and qualitative information to remove assumptions.
  • Use testing to guide your program. Since each organization is different, testing can be used to determine what works for you and helps you find ways to improve performance and save money.
  • However, it is important to accurately read the results of your test beyond just “eye-balling” it. A difference in results may be insignificant and within the margin of error.