When data is NOT the fundraiser’s friend

Good use of data can help you create messages for your donors that are more relevant, interesting — and effective.

But data can betray you in embarrassing ways. Like it does in this letter from an organization I support. (I’m hiding their identity because I don’t want them to be embarrassed in front of their peers.)

Here’s the paragraph where things go awry:

Zerodollars

I’m embarrassed that I neglected to donate for such a long time. It’s an excellent cause. But does that call for sarcasm?

Okay, I know they aren’t being sarcastic, but it comes across that way: All the wonderful things we can do, thanks to your gift of nothing.

It’s just a slight hiccup with the data. My record with its $0 worth of giving should have triggered a different version of the copy. It didn’t.

These things happen. Similar things have happened on messages I was involved with.

The lesson here: Think it through. Be very careful. Make sure there’s a sensible path for whatever is in the data. Get professional help if you need it (and it’s okay if you need it).

Data glitches make the difference between a truly relevant and personal message — and a weird slap in the face!


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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