Data Distillation Jumpstarted Hospital Fundraising

Mine every nugget of data from donor lists and portfolios, reconnect with lapsed donors, and start building a pool of potential and next-generation givers to reenergize fundraising goals.

But first, make sure the donor data is organized, not a chaotic collection of addresses, contact numbers and ambiguous connections to your nonprofit, advised panelists who presented “Fundraising Program Jumpstart” during the annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md.

Leveraging data and analytics to stimulate donations, along with skillfully using social media to promote your brand, was emphasized by presenters Sean Pieri, vice president of development at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Matthew Mielcarek, senior vice president of analytics and insights for Pursuant, a Dallas, Texas-based fundraising and marketing agency that serves the nonprofit sector.

Hired in 2020 to increase major gifts and lead a fundraising team at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Pieri said he found a disorganized database of 60,000 names with no tiering of donors by capacity or affinity, no direct mail program, and virtually no social media presence in the community. 

Pieri hired Pursuant to analyze and structure the donor database and whittle it down to several thousand of the wealthiest and likeliest donors. A market survey was conducted that showed Driscoll Children’s Hospital needed to bolster its brand identity. There is also a direct mail campaign this fall.

“The primary research that we completed together has allowed us to accelerate acquisition efforts at all levels of the giving pyramid by identifying the profile of donors most likely to support Driscoll and target these individuals and engage them with messaging and communication most relevant to their needs,” said Mielcarek.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital is following this action plan:

  • Prioritizing and engaging donors
  • Feeding the donor funnel
  • Bolstering the brand through marketing

“You can’t just have events to fundraise. You’re not going to grow. You have to go to a major gift fundraising program and we have moved there. We’ve definitely got some of the critical strategy worked out and we’re headed in the right direction,” Pieri said.

Once a solid potential donor list was established, the major gifts team embarked on cultivating new donors and reconnecting with lapsed donors. Pieri said the donor database increased by 60% between September 2020 and August 31, 2021, and the goal during the next three to four years is to add another 5,000 donors and retain them. 

The overhaul — and departure from primary fundraising reliance on an event-driven model — has led to ongoing website improvement, including information in Spanish, and marketing.

“Growing the donor base is about relationships. Pick up the phone, ask ‘Can we get together?’ Find out their connection to the hospital. Once you get people talking, they’ll tell you their connection to the hospital,” Pieri said.