Yet so 1999 | npENGAGE

Yet so 1999

By on Nov 12, 2012


Now that more than enough ink has been spilled on the presidential campaign, why one candidate won, it’s time to analyze the role of business intelligence to augment the respective campaigns. From Nate Silver of the New York Times, to the Harvard Business Review to The Agitator, each have walked through the strengths of Orca and Narwhal business intelligence projects. There has been a lot of smart writing.

In regard to the recent articles and adding my 25 years of fundraising experience, the role of business intelligence in the election has confirmed that the nonprofit community needs to focus on a few areas – what’s your relationship with your constituents, what tools are you using to propagate your message and is your message relevant to your constituents and understanding how to map to them with the correct messages in the correct channels.

Now of the blogs I read, beyond Katya and Roger, is the fabulous Seth Godin.  In January of 2008, he wrote what I consider to be a seminal blog post on Tribe Management.

Godin referenced that classic Brand Management was so 1999 with top down, internally focused business processes, with decisions being politically and financially based. The quintessential pre-internet top/down Mad Men management structure, of the white male management cultural paradigm.

And that Tribe management is an organic and permission based ecosystem that allows like-minded people to connect with each other.  Think Pinterest, Reddit, and IndyGogo.

Tribal decisions that are based on each person’s interests and their friends now drive engagement.

We have migrated to crowd-sourced and inter-connected communities where our friend’s opinions drive trust and hence brand loyalty to political candidates and nonprofit organizations.

Now look at the Romney as compared to the Obama campaigns. These are two very different engagement plans for their constituents during the election cycle.

Romney was a traditional retail campaigner who leveraged business intelligence for a command and control using a dashboard to drive engagement with his 30,000 troops. Obama who engaged on Reddit, announced his win on Twitter, and heavily used Facebook ads to leverage word of mouth from friends.

A thread you’ve perhaps read was that both campaigns used, and I referenced this above, business intelligence to drive business decisions.

Romney outsourced his business intelligence and Obama kept it inside his organization. Both campaigns used very sophisticated tools to drive results. And both campaigns baked BI into how resources decisions were made at the ground in terms of micro-targeting for voter persuasion and get out the vote.

How are you leveraging business intelligence, data assets, and big data to manage your organization fundraising? Do you utilize big data to make careful data driven choices? As Harvard Business Review writer Sarah Green recently stated, we have arrived at an era of “mass customization”.

Obama mastered this aspect of the campaign and Romney did not. Has your nonprofit mastered data assets and business intelligence tools to engage your supporters in the channels of their preference?

Let’s step back and think about how this might map to your organization’s fundraising; whether you focus on major gifts, events or direct response channels.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Are you top down, linear, RFM push calendar based in fundraising? Are you or your boss a version of the staff on Mad Men?
  • Do you encourage your supporters to start their own fundraising campaigns, actively engage in social engagement and solve constituent issues? Are your supporters engaged in your issues and do they tell their friends through social media about your organization? Most importantly, who your supporters and alumni?
  • Are your constituents the ones who give you 1.4 gifts per year and have an LTV of $57.1? They have an Eschelon Score of XX? Do you message each of them the same corresponding to their financial value? Are they a mid-level donor or premium donor, a team captain, a planned giving prospect? Do they get fish labels instead of flowers (we know their gender).
  • Do you know how to message to Millennials differently than Boomers? And of that subset, do you message differently than men or women? Cluster versus RFM? Do you message racial audiences African-American, Latino, Asian-American differently?

President Obama identified and  micro-messaged to those constituent clusters that had an affinity to  him  or his policies. By engaging in listening and adapting to his audiences, he won the election.

According to the New York Times, he received over 70% of the Latino, Asian-American, and African-American vote and 60% of the voters younger than 29.

Yet Mr. Romney won almost 60% of the white vote. And this is a cohort that was once the majority voting block and is now a minority.

This makes me ponder about organizations that are still communicating into the same siloed channels as in 1999 and 2009, with incomplete data assets about who their supporters are and their engagement with your organization, the limited integration of the constituent experience across the organization, and that you are still making top down decisions.

At 2016, the next election will  become more multi-cultural and our engagement points more complex in ways today we cannot imagine. Will you try to push your messages or will you listen to  your supporters to decipher the best way to engage them?


Dennis McCarthy, Director of Enterprise Sales at Target Analytics a Blackbaud company, has been serving nonprofits for more than 30 years in the design and implementation of integrated marketing solutions; and building and managing technology solutions for some of America’s largest and most complex nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining the Blackbaud team, Dennis managed Convio’s strategic services practice, comprised of consultants in business analytics, design and information architecture, Deployment Services and Agency Services. Prior to Convio, he worked at Epsilon as a general manager and deployed a successful custom CRM solution for a national health care organization with over 50 affiliates. He is married and has a great son who is a senior in college.

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