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The Future of Data-Driven Nonprofits

Senny Boone, the senior vice president of the ANA Nonprofit Federation, sheds light on how the future of data is changing nonprofit marketing.

Senny Boone

Senior Vice President, ANA Nonprofit Foundation

How has data changed the way nonprofits fundraise and reach new donors?

At the Nonprofit Federation, we know that nonprofit organizations are prolific users of data to raise funds, inform their donors and ensure their missions are being communicated to those they serve. The difference now is that the range and type of data have drastically expanded in today’s new data ecosystem. For example, a disaster-relief nonprofit can reach a donor in real time for local disaster relief using mobile devices to deliver results and updates. It is the most exciting and yet challenging time to be a nonprofit fundraiser. Data is available at every point in the communication with a donor, and this means that the charity can bring donors into the mission with immediacy and results.

Where do you see the future of data and nonprofit marketing in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, I see optimized engagement through data-driven relationships. Data is one only part of the equation for a charity — data is meant to be used as a valuable resource to reach the right person, deliver on mission and drive an organization’s results. We need to engage our donors in real time for the benefit of the social good. The future is limitless as long as the nonprofit community treats data with respect and has a bigger, more meaningful relationship with donors beyond the donor data captured. Data provides more analytics than imagined, more targeted messaging and properly resourced approaches. The ideal is that the nonprofit community will be empowered through data and can reach donors more quickly for support and help those in need by using data for good.

What is the biggest benefit for nonprofits to use data in marketing/fundraising? 

There are several benefits: proper resource allocation, attribution based on channel, the ability to assess results and to inform decision making. Nonprofit organizations have very limited funds and need effective tools. With data comes knowledge and enhances the better use of limited resources to manage an organization’s mission now and for future growth.

What is the GDPR? What does it mean for nonprofits?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect for organizations active in the European Union on May 25, 2018, and it replaces the European Data Protection Directive in all EU member states. It is a very broad set of data protection rules and is important for charities in the United States to be mindful of. The GDPR does not exempt nonprofit organizations from data rules. Nonprofits collect a great deal of personal information, and this means organizations with contacts in the EU will need to comply. The fines are very steep: 4 percent of annual turnover or 20 million euros. 

Here are some factors to consider which may trigger your compliance with GDPR:

  • Is your organization serving or reaching out to EU citizens?
  • Are you transferring data from the EU to the United States?
  • Does your website purposefully outreach to EU countries for donors or other mission-related activities?
  • Have you reviewed the types of data covered by the GDPR? Have you reviewed how to protect the data you may be collecting and sharing as a result?
  • Do you have proper permission processes in place to ensure you have the required consent for the data uses you may be engaged in?

What is your biggest piece of advice for nonprofits looking to grow their fundraising and marketing efforts? 

As much as you need to build scale, do not forget the individual. Individuals want to give back, and you can help them by offering new, simple ways they can donate and get involved in your mission, not just as a one-time donor, but throughout the lifetime of your organization. Data is important so long as you can see the individual behind the numbers.

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