The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 48

Using Donor Data to Deepen Relationships, with Regina Alhassan

In this Episode:

Most every organization keeps records of their donors—whether it’s in advanced CRMs or simple spreadsheets. But there’s a wide gap between keeping records and maximizing donor data to build strong relationships that raise more money.

Regina Alhassan of ResearchPRO joins us to share her strategies for collecting valuable data, tracking it over time and allocating your resources and your requests accordingly.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:03.710] – Intro
Welcome to The Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and podcast where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da Ding!

[00:00:19.990] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to The Nonprofit Hero Factory. Today we’re going to be focusing on the subject of data, but specifically how to utilize it or perhaps start collecting it properly and then turning it into insights so that you could predict donor behavior and maximize it to well, as we like to do every week on the show, create more heroes for your cause. I wonder if that’s become a drinking game yet; every time I say create more heroes for your cause, somebody takes a drink. That’ll make for a fun nonprofit party.

[00:00:50.470] – Boris
Today’s guest is Regina Alhassan, who is the founder and CEO of ResearchPRO, a leading prospect development consulting firm. Regina is an award winning TEDx speaker with total dollars identified in the billions that’s with a B. And Regina’s work has fueled major gift campaigns for organizations across the country, including The Ohio State University, I Am Boundless, Mid Ohio Food Collective, Communities and Schools, and Children’s Literacy Initiative. Her 20 years of prospect, research and management includes wealth analysis, software development, end-user training, leadership coaching, knowledge management, moves management, systems management, donor relations and development operations.

[00:01:33.430] – Boris
Currently, she is the Secretary for the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. And Regina is also an artist, writer, and philanthropist. She describes her superpower as finding qualified prospects for multi-million dollar fundraising campaigns, something that I’m sure we would all like to be better at ourselves. So with that, let’s bring Regina onto the show. Hi, Regina.

[00:01:58.050] – Regina Alhassan

[00:01:59.530] – Boris
Welcome, welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:02:02.260] – Regina Alhassan
Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

[00:02:04.870] – Boris
It is absolutely my pleasure to try to extract as much knowledge from you today at the end in the time we have together, because that’s what I love to do. Before we get into that, though, I read your impressive bio, and I’d love to just hear from you, though, tell our audience, why are you who you are? What’s your story? Why are you doing this? Why are you the ResearchPRO?

[00:02:26.850] – Regina Alhassan
Yes. Like many other fundraisers, I fell into fundraising sort of on accident. Fresh out of college, my first job as a program assistant in the development office at Ohio State. And so just kind of a light bulb moment really revealed, like, oh, this is how people change the world. This is why there are names on the buildings on campus. This is how I can change the world, make an impact, et cetera, and move the needle on social justice, all the things. And so it was just sort of a field that felt right. Major gifts fundraising was a career that just was the right fit for me, most especially within prospect development. So really digging into the science of fundraising. Certainly appreciate the art of fundraising and that frontline engagement, but there’s also power in the science and the sort of behind the scenes in the strategy and all of that. So that’s what really caught me. Nonprofits really tug at my heart. About four years ago, five years ago now, in 2017, I started my firm, ResearchPRO on my own, decided to launch out on my own and just have not looked back and really enjoy being the CEO.

[00:03:52.450] – Boris
Yeah. I sometimes enjoy being the CEO. And sometimes I tell people that I’ve got the worst boss. He doesn’t give me any breaks—

[00:03:58.340] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. Getting that, too.

[00:04:04.045] – Boris
No sleep, 24/7.

[00:04:03.890] – Regina Alhassan
Yes. And so along with that, I’m also a wife, a mom, all the things. And I have to say, my 6-year-old would probably say that my superpower is slaying the monsters in the closet and making the best Rice Krispies in the world—best Krispy treats in the world. All the hats.

[00:04:27.890] – Boris
That’s fantastic. You’ll have to teach me your monster slaying techniques some time because I have some kids at home who could use a little bit of that myself. I do love that you are at your own intersection—because I’m at mine—of the way that human beings behave and the science and data behind them, right? How do we get people to take the actions? What does the research and the data say about it so that we can channel it towards creating a greater world for all of us, right?

[00:04:59.380] – Regina Alhassan
Yes, absolutely.

[00:05:01.190] – Boris
So let’s look at that. And from your point of view, what is happening in the philanthropy, in the nonprofit space at the moment these days, how’s it looking?

[00:05:11.930] – Regina Alhassan
What we know is that people are giving. It’s looking good. So certainly some organizations are struggling. I have colleagues that are sort of questioning what they’re doing with their lives, the paths that they’ve decided to take in the nonprofit world. But we also know that fundraising and philanthropy is on the rise. Donors are being more generous. New donors are being more generous. First-time donors, et cetera. Millennials are giving in interesting ways. People continue to be generous. That is what continues. And that is what gives me hope. So that’s always exciting.

[00:05:56.240] – Boris
I love that you’re so positive on it, because I do know that there’s also some negative statistics that came out a couple of years ago that average donations per individuals really have gone down, while major gifts have gone up to kind of counterbalance it. So overall fundraising has gone up, but individual donors have kind of declined. I wonder—I’m hoping that new research is coming out soon, actually, that I’ve been hearing about. It’s going to show that it’s not as doom and gloom as people have been making it out to be. I think the pandemic specifically and please talk to this if you’ve got some more insights. But specifically, during the pandemic, more people became more generous because we all felt more like we were in the same boat and we could empathize with others much more so in times of hardship. And so people became more generous at that same time. Do you find that to be the case?

[00:06:49.030] – Regina Alhassan
Absolutely. And so I really enjoy the Giving USA report, and I look forward to that every year. And so that measures and provides all sorts of analysis and data about philanthropy in the United States. And so according the report, giving is up, the numbers are up. Individual giving is up. Corporate giving actually is down a bit. And so that, I think, is a huge queue that we should rely less on those organizational dollars and those grants, et cetera, and really lend our attention and zero our attention on individual giving and prospecting among individual donors.

[00:07:33.230] – Boris
I think you’ve got a great point there. I did have a guest not too long ago talking about corporate giving. And I definitely feel like there’s a huge role for that, too. Hopefully now that the economy is moving in better directions, that’s going to come back up. But we can’t rely on any one source, no matter what. A lot of organizations put their eggs in one hypothetical basket. So I definitely agree with you. We shouldn’t be focusing fully on that as well. So if everything is looking good from a donor perspective, then what’s wrong with the way things are now?

[00:08:08.090] – Regina Alhassan
Well, there are still some challenges, internal challenges that each organization has and that we continue to kind of stay in these ruts. And so the pandemic as challenging and as terrible, as chaotic and disastrous as a pandemic can be, it certainly created some opportunities for us to adjust the way that we go about our status quo.

[00:08:35.030] – Regina Alhassan
But one thing that comes to mind specifically is event-based fundraising. So we had an opportunity really, to move away from that and to get creative and innovative. But more and more, I’m seeing organizations shift right back into that big annual event fundraiser. It’s safe now, et cetera. So they’re starting to do that. And it’s just like, oh, I thought we said… I thought we all kind of collectively agreed we were happy to see those go away. So I think there still are some things that we’re just kind of used to the way that it is, whether or not that’s the way that we do our outreach, whether or not we embrace web-based outreach, a lot of organizations are still shying away from that. Online giving is up. It’s still a small percentage of all total giving, but it’s growing.

[00:09:31.250] – Regina Alhassan
And so that’s an opportunity that organizations still are not latching onto and grasping and fully utilizing. So I think the opportunity is there. Still, we have just about half of all Americans are philanthropic. So that are actually our donors are being counted as donors. So that still is a huge population of people that we are missing. And so I think there’s an opportunity to especially with what we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic. There’s an opportunity to get really creative and innovative about who we prospect and bring in new donors.

[00:10:11.990] – Boris
So I think it’s natural that a lot of organizations are trying to get back to what they’ve known and what they’ve done so well, hopefully, for so many years before. I do agree that the world has shifted and there’s no full going back. And it might be a mistake to try to go fully back. What then should we be doing instead? And honestly, where does data come into this? Don’t we just keep trying new things and hopefully raising more money? What should we be doing?

[00:10:40.530] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. So all the things that we try we should be tracking somewhere in the database. All the people that we engage, all the names, all the contact information, whether or not they’re donors, they’re fans, they’re members, they’re advocates, they’re students, they’re clients, no matter what their constituency is, we should have that name and that data and be collecting it. We should be tracking the way that we engage with them, the touchpoints, etc. And all of that, so that we can then do some predictive analysis and determine where do we have the most reach? Where do we have the most impact? Who’s engaging the most? And then we can maximize our effort and our strategy in those directions.

[00:11:27.750] – Boris
Okay, those are some great exciting words. I want to challenge you to really let’s break them down for our folks. When you say predictive analysis, I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, some folks out there thought, oh, AI, is that what you’re advocating for? Are you talking we should start using Artificial Intelligence tools to figure out what donors are going to do in the future?

[00:11:51.270] – Regina Alhassan
So to be candid, most organizations are not ready for AI, big AI. Most of us are still using—many organizations are using Excel or just one step up from Excel, very rudimentary CRMs and databases for our donor databases. So the idea of using big data or AI and adopting that is not realistic. What is more realistic is that we can take a look at past donor behavior, past donor giving history, et cetera, and use that to predict how our donors may behave going forward.

[00:12:32.010] – Regina Alhassan
So a great example is a local arts organization I’ve been working with. And so one of their board members had a fundraiser, a birthday fundraiser on Facebook. And so they generated a lot of new interest, new engagement. I think they got up to over $3,000. They kept surpassing the goal. And so just for fun, he kept upping the goal and they kept surpassing it. And so then there’s an opportunity. Let’s capture that data. Let’s not just say, oh, that was fun. That was cute. Let’s capture that donor information, even if it is just Facebook profiles. And let’s begin to build from there. Let’s reach out to them. If we don’t have their email or address, you have their profile handles. So let’s reach out to them some way and begin to build that data. So we know we have demonstrated proof for next year we’re going to repeat this birthday fundraiser. And in fact, let’s experiment and see what happens when another board member has a birthday fundraiser.

[00:13:43.550] – Regina Alhassan
There’s demonstrated evidence that it works. So let’s try it again. So that’s the type of predictive analytics that many of us are in a position to do and to implement. What has already happened? What have we already had success with? Let’s repeat that. Or what was the challenge, what didn’t quite work the way that we had hoped? Let’s not do that again. Or how can we adjust that and then get to the success we were hoping for? So those are the type of predictive analysis analytics that all of us can begin to engage in, no matter what state our data is in, no matter what it’s in.

[00:14:21.810] – Boris
So I’m glad you said that, because I do think AI is incredibly powerful and helpful. But AI relies on large data sets to even work in the first place. And if you don’t have sufficient data, then you might be coming up with false conclusions. A lot of times that is a problem. And even when all kinds of research is being done, that’s a common issue that’s seen. So essentially you’re saying, let’s look at past performance as an indicator or predictor of future results, even though they might turn out different from year to year, from attempt to attempt. But let’s track that data, let’s see what worked, what didn’t work, and then let’s iterate on that. Am I getting that right?

[00:15:06.170] – Regina Alhassan
Yes. And you have to start somewhere. So many organizations are afraid of starting because they don’t have all of this aggregate information, because they don’t have 10 years worth of information. You must begin—it’s like that saying, “begin to begin.” You have to start somewhere. And I encourage organizations to take that brave step, be brave and just begin. Start with what you have, even if what you have is pretty scrappy. Start there and recognize the holes that you need to fill, recognize the gaps that you need to address.

[00:15:46.050] – Boris
So what are some of the common gaps? Because a lot of organizations do have a CRM that they’re using. It might be one of the big mainstream ones, or it might be an Excel spreadsheet, which if that’s the best you’ve got at the moment, then that’s a great starting point. What are some of the holes that you’re seeing they’re not actually filling?

[00:16:06.910] – Regina Alhassan
Relationships, first off. It continues to be—it surprises me. Like that’s been an issue throughout my entire career. I see organizations struggle with that. So mapping relationships within your database, whether or not it’s spouse relationships, children, familial relationships, company relationships, who works at the same company, what are their positions, et cetera. And these sound basic, but so many organizations really are challenged by that. So that’s one huge gap that I see.

[00:16:44.840] – Regina Alhassan
Along with that, all of this relates to data integrity. So that’s sort of the umbrella gap, data integrity. But under that, tribute, honor, memorial gifts, the way that we track that information and kind of another sort of offshoot to data integrity are the protocols. So because we don’t have consistent protocols, because the way that we enter data and the way that we track information and manage information changes so easily based on who’s actually doing the job, the data integrity and the protocols get lost and then the data, it’s hard to make the insights as meaningful as they could be.

[00:17:35.430] – Boris
Right. If your data is not compiled consistently, then you can’t analyze it across different time periods or just the same time period, but two different people entered it. So you wind up having something different. Are you advocating then… And I think this might be a good solution, with a process doc that clearly states out—

[00:17:54.675] – Regina Alhassan

[00:17:55.350] – Boris
Step-by-step how to enter the data? Is that the answer to that?

[00:17:56.860] – Regina Alhassan
Yes. A process doc that is easily accessible and that everyone has access to. It’s part of onboarding for new staff that no matter what the role is and it’s just something that you use. You can have a process doc, but if it’s just in a shared file somewhere, it’s not meaningful.

[00:18:18.510] – Boris
Yeah. And I like that you’re saying have everyone, every new person on staff to go through it. I think even if they’re not necessarily the people who are going to be entering that data, for them to at least understand the type of data that you’re trying to collect and the way that you’re looking at your supporters is going to be helpful to everybody.

[00:18:36.930] – Regina Alhassan
Yes. Absolutely.

[00:18:37.860] – Boris
So then I want to take it back to the thing that you said just before, that, which is these relationships—mapping relationships. I can understand how for a nonprofit, especially smaller nonprofits, without a big data department within their development team, it feels cumbersome to try to figure out those relationships and track them. Why is that necessary? What is the advantage that’s going to give us? How does that pay off, I guess is my question.

[00:19:05.250] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. So there is a quote by John Rockefeller, and he talks all about the relationships and knowing whether or not someone is your friend. Are they a supporter? How much did they give you last year? What do you have in common? How likely are they to support you again? All of that insight requires information. You have to have record of it, some memory of it. And so that’s where the data comes in.

[00:19:39.890] – Regina Alhassan
The data also allows you to get really strategic. So it’s not always about finding the next big donor. Sometimes the data also lets you release some of those donors that are still important. But if we are talking about transformational change and we need transformational gifts, we can automate some of our stewardship. And so sometimes that data helps us segment our donors, our constituents, which then we can put some of our people on autopilot, and it frees up the time to work towards those transformational gifts, those leadership gifts, to work towards other types of impact and program impact, et cetera. So the data has the opportunity to drive so much of our work.

[00:20:36.010] – Boris
I just had someone on recently talking about these onboarding campaigns to set them on autopilot, but still—with data and with proper usage of these autopilot features—still making them personal, still making them interactive as much as possible. Because the relationship shouldn’t just be one way, right? It shouldn’t just be blasting things at you. We are actually also interested in you and really building a relationship in that regard. And how do we though… And maybe there’s no perfect answer to this, but how do we use the data that you were saying specifically about who is connected to whom in terms of a family? Where is that relevant, and how do we then turn that to our advantage knowing that kind of information?

[00:21:25.200] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. Part of that is just knowing and being able to show your donors and your supporters that you know who they are. Like you said, it’s not one sided. Just like you have a story, your donors also have a story. And so part of it is showing a respect for their engagement and the fact that they do have a story and that they do have these relationships that could be important to both of you. There’s also opportunity to leverage those relationships, especially with board members. Obviously, if we’re looking for connections on the executive level, depending on what your organization is and who your leadership is, but there are opportunities to leverage those relationships.

[00:22:16.580] – Regina Alhassan
There’s also an opportunity, I think, to really just sort of widen the base and demonstrate that, yes, this is an impact. This is a mission that is worthy of all of our investment. And that’s sort of the high level feel good answer. But when we’re talking about specific donor strategy, it is important to know if your board member knows the person on the board at the foundation that is giving the grant and awarding the grant. Those are important connections to have.

[00:22:54.910] – Regina Alhassan
It’s important to know, do you share LinkedIn connections with other potential funders, et cetera? It’s important to track those so that just again, just so you can have that institutional memory and draw upon it for future support.

[00:23:13.430] – Boris
Very cool. Very cool. Okay. So if we do start, let’s say we’re an organization that isn’t tracking all the data that we need to be or isn’t doing a great job of stewarding that data in one way or another. It is a big lift sometimes to get started. What does it look like if we’re successful? What kind of results can we expect if we put in all the time and energy into creating our databases, maintaining our databases, and stewarding our databases?

[00:23:50.490] – Regina Alhassan
Happy donors, happy staff, staff that has direction, staff that is not working above capacity. So I’ll share a success story with you. One of my clients, they’ve been a client for about three and a half years now. When the VP first arrived at the organization, they had never done… they had not really pursued charitable giving before. They only relied on federal dollars, et cetera. So when she got there, they had a collection of records, about 3,500 records, and that was their database. But there wasn’t any really great contact information. No giving information, no real rationale about why these people are—why we even have these records.

[00:24:44.970] – Regina Alhassan
So she was really bold and said, “We’re just going to scrap it. I can’t work with bad data. But what I will do is keep the records for anyone that has given and has a clear indication of why they are connected to us. If that is in the database, then let’s work with them.” But she scrapped the bulk of it, I would say over 90% of the database and built from there. So now they’re back up to closer to 4,000 records. And they know that they are… But this is all within three years. They know that everyone that’s in that database has a strong affiliation with the organization. There’s a reason why they’re in there. It’s clearly documented and all of that. They just went through a software conversion from Bloomerang to Salesforce. They are getting ready to launch go public with the first phase of a larger campaign. The first phase is $10 million, but they have not yet gone public. But they’re already, I think, halfway towards that $10 million.

[00:25:55.880] – Regina Alhassan
And that is with the position being very, very careful about: we’re going to bring in the right people, we’re going to track these relationships. We’re going to build out the prospect pipeline, we’re going to invest in the infrastructure, invest in the right team, etc., so that they can be positioned for within just a few years to launch a $10-million campaign as the first phase of a larger campaign. So that’s what good data can do for you. That’s what good strategy, good planning, good development, good fundraising can do for you.

[00:26:36.370] – Boris
That’s pretty impressive results. Good for them.

[00:26:39.840] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. So three years is a bit of a wait, but we know the average donor cycle is 18 months. And so we have to put forth that investment and again, we have to start somewhere.

[00:26:53.710] – Boris
Awesome. So speaking of, we have to start somewhere. Where should we start? If an organization isn’t doing what best practice might look like, or they’ve been compiling data into their CRM, whatever that looks like, but not really going to it and strategically looking at it and using it, where should they start to get on this road to success with their data, where they can really maximize it and increase their impact?

[00:27:26.980] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. So the first place that I tell people to start is screening your data, whether or not you screen all of your donors at once, or you screen them individually and by screening what I mean is to find out what is their capacity. What is the capacity of your donor database? And again, you can screen your entire database at one time, or you can do the individual research to figure out your top donors or start with your board, what is the true giving capacity for those individuals and go from there and match that or not necessarily match, but compare that giving capacity with their actual giving history to your organization. And wherever there are gaps, then we can start to build out some strategy to get people closer to their true capacity.

[00:28:17.710] – Boris
Now that seems to me almost a little cold. What’s their capacity to give, right? It’s putting a potential dollar amount on a person. What does that actually look like? How do you do that? How do you quantify that? And then how do you approach talking to somebody about it?

[00:28:36.130] – Regina Alhassan
Yeah. So the capacity really is internal work, and you don’t necessarily tell someone, oh, I figured out what your capacity is. That’s not the conversation that we’re having. This is very internal so that you can build out a strategy, and it can be cold, to be quite honest. But again, this is not front facing. This is all internal. And so with that, it is a bit cold, but it also allows you to create donor segments and donor buckets.

[00:29:08.540] – Regina Alhassan
And so if you determine that a particular donor only has capacity for $10,000, well, then there’s no reason to try to solicit them or cultivate them for $100,000 gift. Or if you may get a surprise, that, oh, here’s someone that really has a $50,000 capacity, but they’ve only given us $20. Well, why is that? Maybe we should have a conversation with this person or let’s try to engage them so that we make space for a conversation. And so those are the opportunities, those are the gaps that we’re looking for. And having the capacity will allow us to do that. It’s a little cold, yes, but it’s very internal. This is the science behind it, and this is a necessary step to build our strategy.

[00:30:02.830] – Boris
I think even as I’m listening to you talk about it, I think it actually can be not cold, but kind of the opposite of it, which is warming things up. You want to know as much as you can about the folks that you’re speaking to. Now, ideally, you learn as much as you can directly from them. But if you have third-party sources, of course, it’s still valid and valuable information. We have, I’m sure you know, this concept of the donor-size problem where you’re not going to ask just anybody to put their name on a building, for example, just to go to the extreme of it and to be the base of your capital campaign. But if you don’t know who those folks are that you can approach, then you might just be throwing it out at everybody and turning people off.

[00:30:54.790] – Regina Alhassan
Unfortunately, we lost connection with Regina just as we were trying to wrap up the episode there and ask her for some resources, but I was able to get them from her. We were just talking about screening your donors and being able to identify whom you can approach for different types of campaigns.

[00:31:11.790] – Boris
You don’t want to approach folks with a very limited budget and ask them for a whole lot of money. It’ll be actually insensitive. And at the same time, you want to ask the people who are capable of giving you more to give more because you want them to know, I should say, that you understand them and their ability and their capacity. And it’s not necessarily cold to then say, “Hey, I know you care about these things, and I believe that you could really take us much further. And we’ve got opportunities specifically for someone like yourself.”

[00:31:45.850] – Boris
So I had asked Regina what resources she recommends and specifically for screening, Regina recommended the iWave free screening tool. So I’m going to link to this in the show notes where you could go to iWave and screen up to 200 of your donor records to really see what their capacity is and extract whatever data you can. It’s an easy and cheap way, because for free you can do this, to get some information about some of your folks, dip your toe into these waters if you haven’t been already doing this.

[00:32:16.220] – Boris
The other resource that she recommended was actually “The Philanthropy Revolution” by Lisa Greer, who we have had on the show. I’m going to link to that podcast episode as well. I love Lisa and the way that she talks about herself being a philanthropist and how we need to change the way that we talk to people, including deeper-pocketed philanthropists like herself, to treat them more as human beings and develop these relationships rather than as just cold data points or sources of money like ATMs, which I think is a very important mission that she’s on there.

[00:32:49.160] – Boris
AnSd you can follow Regina and get to know her more by following her at @theresearchpro. And she does offer an intro call for nonprofits who are looking for donors, whether they’re high-end donors or just ways to maximize your current database. And I will link to her currently where you can just go ahead and book a slot with her as well in the show notes.

[00:33:12.400] – Boris
Thank you, everybody, for joining us. Thank you, Regina, for being on the show today and talking about all these important things in terms of using your donor data, really developing relationships based on data as a whole. We will hopefully have more from Regina in the coming episodes because I would actually really love to talk to her about how to screen donors and how to find those bigger donor prospects, the bigger philanthropists. That’s a conversation for another time.

[00:33:41.990] – Boris
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do share it with your friends. Please do leave us a review on iTunes, on Spotify on YouTube or wherever you find this content so that you can help us help more people create more heroes for their cause. Thank you everybody. We’ll see you next week.

[00:33:59.170] – Intro
Thank you all for watching and listening to The Nonprofit Hero factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Regina hadn’t planned to go into fundraising, but discovered that this was a way to change the world—and that there was some science behind how it works. (2:26)
  • Fundraising and philanthropy is on the rise from new and existing donors, but many organizations are still struggling. (5:11)
  • The pandemic created some new opportunities for creative fundraising, but many organizations aren’t embracing the new ideas, preferring to go back to the old ways of doing things like having big in-person annual galas. (8:35)
  • Around half of all Americans are actively donating to causes. That means that there is still half of the population that we haven’t reached yet. (9:42)
  • Everyone who engages with your org should be tracked in your database, whether they’re donors, fans, members, advocates, students, clients, etc. (10:40)
    • We should be tracking their names and contact info, but also all of the touchpoints in our engagement with them to be able to do some predictive analysis to maximize our efforts.
  • Using donor data to predict future behavior doesn’t have to be costly or involve artificial intelligence. We can simply look at what different donors have responded to in the past to make intelligent guesses about what they might do in the future. (11:27)
    • Every time you have an event or raise funds, capture as much data as you can. Look to see what worked and what didn’t, and then iterate on it for the next attempt.
  • You don’t need a lot of aggregate data to get started, you just have to start with whatever data you have and build on that. (15:06)
  • Regina sees two major issues in nonprofit donor data: relationships and data integrity. (16:06)
    • Relationships: How well are you tracking family relationships, network relationships, company relationships, etc.?
    • Data integrity: Not everything is tracked and, perhaps more importantly, things aren’t tracked consistently by different people over time.
  • Having a process doc that is easily accessible and is part of the onboarding process for all new staff is critical to data integrity and consistency over time. (17:35)
  • Using data to understand your donors, you can segment and allocate the right resources to nurturing your relationships, automating some aspects but keeping them personal. (19:39)
  • Sometimes it’s better to restart your database entirely than to continue with a database that’s incomplete and ambiguous. Regina shares a client success story of an organization that scrapped their database and rebuilt it over three years, but now is on track to fulfill a $10-million capital campaign. (24:03)
  • To maximize your donor database, Regina recommends screening your data to find out their capacity, whether you do it one donor at a time or the entire database at once. This can feel like a cold process, but it can be used to make your relationships stronger. (27:27)
    • Knowing what people are capable of giving allows you to focus your efforts more strategically.
    • Donor capacity can also be used as a guidepost for engaging them in conversations and approaching them with problems on a scale that they can solve, rather than asking for too much or too little, which could feel insulting.

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Regina Alhassan

Regina Alhassan

CEO, ResearchPRO, LLC

Regina Alhassan is Founder & CEO of ResearchPRO, a leading prospect development consulting firm. An award-winning TEDx Speaker with total dollars identified in the billions, Regina’s work has fueled major gift campaigns for organizations across the country including The Ohio State University, I Am Boundless, Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Communities In Schools and Children’s Literacy Initiative. Her 20 years of prospect research and management includes wealth analysis, software development, end user training, leadership coaching, knowledge management, moves management, systems management, donor relations and development operations. Current Secretary for the Central Ohio chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals, Regina is also an artist, writer, and philanthropist.

Connect with Regina Alhassan