Using Data to Predict Fundraising Results | npENGAGE

Using Data to Predict Fundraising Results

By on May 12, 2015


Nonprofit Reporting Systems

I recently attended AHP Convene Canada 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia and attended an important session “Turning Data Analytics into Meaningful Business Intelligence” led by Lynn Conforti and Sheila Tilotta of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation.

They discussed a reporting system that is helping the Foundation better predict fundraising success against their goals and prevent unexpected revenue shortfalls, and offered some important tips on how your organization can get started.

Turning Analytics into Business Intelligence:

  • Hawthorne Effect: Be very intentional about what you choose to measure. Staff will respond to what you are counting. Make sure measures are ultimately tied to your organization’s operational, tactical, and strategic plans.
  • User adoption: Use a reporting tool that end users can easily adopt. The more an end user can do (modifying filters, working in the report data), the better. This will also free your IT team from having to create so many independent reports. At Southlake, they chose to use Microsoft Excel, one report per tab, using formulas referencing the data tab. You can use any platform you want, but keep in mind the pros and cons of each.
  • Start with lag measures, strive for lead measures: Start simple with a “lag” measure, measuring something in the past. Example: revenue raised. Then graduate to “lead” measures, which help to predict the success of lag measures.
  • Meet regularly: Reinforce with regularly scheduled meetings (weekly at Southlake) where the report data/results is used as a tool for performance metrics.
  • Patience: Don’t expect the world in a few months. It will take time for staff to embrace the reporting system and all it brings to the organization.

How to Create the Report:

  • Single source of data: Create your report from a single source of data. Pull biographical, prospect/proposal, action, relationship and financial data from ONE source of data. This will avoid time spent on comparing/reconciling data between different sources.
  • Something for development, something for finance: These two teams consume different metrics, but the data should still come from the same source. It doesn’t hurt to add “verbals” (pledge and pledge payment information) in a development report that can be used for finance. Both teams will benefit and you’ll have one less report to create!
  • Checks and balances: make sure you employ a mechanism to check your work when you make changes/additions to the report. This could be a check cell or some other tool.

Why Do This?

This type of reporting system will enable your organization to make decisions based on facts, increasing productivity and accountability. And, ultimately, better decision making means a better experience for the donor!

Have you created a system of tools for reporting on data entered into your fundraising database?  Leave a comment below on what worked for you, what tools you used, and what you would change if you had to do it all over again.

Lynn Conforti, CFRE is the Manager, Philanthropy and Engagement (Individual/Family Focus) at Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation in Newmarket, Ontario. Sheila Tilotta is the Vice President, Stewardship & Operations, also at Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation.


Chris Geady, bCRE, is a Senior Solutions Engineer with Blackbaud Canada, based in Burlington, Ontario. Mr. Geady works with hundreds of clients and prospects in a technical and consultative capacity for implementing and maintaining CRM, online event/marketing and financial solutions. Mr. Geady recently returned to Blackbaud from Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, working in the capacity of Director, Information Technology. While at the Foundation he provided digital strategy support to the communications team, assisted in overhauling the major giving program, and streamlined gift admin & financial reconciliation processes. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @chrisgeadybb

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