Healthcare systems are increasingly looking to their foundations for help getting things done. Development offices are being asked to take on significant campaigns and to overhaul grateful patient programs—and those big efforts may not come with additional staff or resources that align with the size of the requests.
This is prompting some very real questions about how to move forward—especially for the smaller foundations and for healthcare organizations that have relied on a couple staff people, a committee, or lots of events to facilitate community giving.
When thinking about how to evolve, mature, and grow, it seems few small shops consider the potential and possibility analytics could bring to their work because:
- With only a few people on staff, they’re concerned the office is too small for analytics
- Without the help of a professional prospect researcher, they’re concerned they lack the necessary expertise
- With a history of raising money through golf tournaments and galas, they’re concerned their database won’t have the “right” people
- With limited resources, they’re concerned about investing in something new
One of the biggest misconceptions about analytics in fundraising is that only well-staffed, well-funded, well-oiled machines can use it. But as long as analytics tools are right sized for an organization, almost any team can have success.
So, what do organizations need to know about a right-sized approach?
- There are a lot of options. It’s worth the time to explore what’s available because more choices exist than most people realize. Some tools, in fact, are specifically designed for smaller offices that want something simple, and there might be the opportunity to scale the day-to-day application of analytics (even those traditionally used by bigger shops) so they’re appropriate for smaller organizations.
- Analytics are a fit when they speak to an organization’s focus, its resources, and its strategic plan. Does the development team understand organizational priorities and the results that are expected? How about the time, staff, and budget with which they’ll be working? What’s the broad roadmap for making progress? Asking (and being able to answer) questions like these will go a long way toward “getting it right” with analytics—from choosing solutions, to putting them in motion, to tracking success.
- Getting started is often the hardest part. Introducing analytics into any office usually requires some amount of culture change. There’s a way that things have been done and trying a new, data-driven approach can be a big shift. In acknowledgement of this, organizations might choose to start with one project or tactic—perhaps it’s growing the pool of $1,000 donors, or identifying a small group of prospects who could quickly fund a capital project, or simply introducing more targeted asks into direct mail that’s already part of the development program. The entire fundraising effort doesn’t have to be transformed overnight to enjoy the benefits of a data-driven approach. And that’s because…
- Plans to use data don’t have to be complicated to be good. I said this to at least a couple clients a month when I was a full-time consultant on data-driven fundraising. In fact, some organizations I’d consider among the more successful with which I worked weren’t necessarily the biggest clients, or the clients that moved faster than everyone else, or the clients that used analytics in everything they did. Organizations that make a realistic and actionable plan—and stick to it—get outcomes.
- Expect to learn and grow. By the very nature of what they are, analytics and data are about getting an education. Sure, they answer and inform some questions very directly, but there’s also value in the new experiences, insights, and conversations analytics spark. A willingness to be open minded, flexible, and creative—and to be able to recommit to those ideas as the organization changes—goes a long way.
Finally, it’s important to remember that right-sized analytics aren’t the only important consideration. Ultimately, a lot of what’s mentioned above amounts to organizational readiness, which isn’t always easy to determine—and is even tougher to understand if you haven’t used analytics before.
The bottom line? Data are great tools and can provide valuable direction, but they are little more than interesting tidbits unless people take action with the information. That means it’s smart to consider your team’s ability to act on data—not just the data itself—and to ask yourself some practical questions to guide that part of the conversation with your colleagues.
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