Title of article (please use title caps and rename this file as Title V1 JB): The Data Does Wonders, But Only If You Use It

The Data Does Wonders, But Only If You Use It

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When I tell people about our Supporter Connection Survey, one of the most common questions I’m asked is this:

What exactly do I do with the data we gather?

Let me give you a quick look at how to handle the bonanza of data you’ll get. But first, the most important advice I can give you:

Still go ahead with a Supporter Connection Survey even if you’re not sure what to do with the data! The gains that are in store for you are too important to put the project aside. It would be far better to do it imperfectly than to not do it!

That said, here’s a “real world” approach to what will be, for some, a data challenge….

The Supporter Connection Survey will give you several critical pieces of data:

  1. Legacy/bequest leads

Run — don’t walk — to give these to your major donor or planned giving people for a follow-up!

These are leads to hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) in future revenue. Every day that these leads sit untouched, their relevance and likelihood of yielding actual revenue fade. They can be dealt with on old fashioned paper if you can’t get them in the database. Just photocopy the surveys as they come in and give them to whoever deals with planned giving.

  1. Major donor leads

These leads are almost as important and just as urgent as the planned giving leads. So start following them up immediately.

Record key information on pen and paper if you need to – just get back to these people quickly!

Following up major donor and bequest leads doesn’t rely on a good data system. So they can always be managed in some way. Fortunately, they’re also the big money part.

However, there are a couple more pieces of data you’ll also gather…

  1. Donors’ specific connection with your cause

Let’s say your organisation is Save the Snails. You’ll ask donors a question about the part of your work they feel most connected to. Something like this:

What part of Save the Snails’ work is most important to you (choose one)?

  • Saving pigmy snails
  • Protecting polar snails
  • Rescuing homing snails
  • Standing up for basking snails
  • I care about all of the endangered snails

In a future fundraising message, you can use this information, like this:

Mrs. Example, I know you’ll be excited to help build our Snail World Super Habitat because, as you told me in a survey a few months ago, you love our work to protect polar snails.

This will boost those fundraising efforts.

To do this, you need to have a place in your data for this new field. This can’t be done until you have got your database able to do this. However, whilst it will increase revenue, it is not as significant as the high value leads.

You can keep the data in a separate database or list, just be really careful on quality control when you merge it for a direct mail or email.

When you’ve done the Supporter Connection Survey just once, most of your donors will have nothing in this field, so you’ll need default copy for the donors who haven’t taken the survey. As you repeat the survey through the years, it will become common in your data.

This will build better relationships and increase life time value – for you and your donor (they will value you more through their lifetime too!).

  1. Donors’ specific connection with your cause, verbatim

Donors may even write answers in their own words. Only a small proportion of supporters usually do this and don’t worry about recording it all straight away.

Just ensure you have a system for recording the small proportion who write things in their own words AND are planned giving or major donor supporters or leads.

To use this verbatim data, someone has to physically revise every single message. Which is ridiculous … except for your very best donors. For them, say the top 50 donors, this extra bit of human touch is very worthwhile. In the long term, you’ll need a field in your database to hold this. Just be careful not to use it wrong!

I hope this is helpful. More importantly, I hope it inspires you about the possibilities the Support Connection Survey opens up for your fundraising.

Sean Triner

Learn how to make your own Supporter Connection Survey by signing up for The Fundraisingology Lab.

In the course, I will take you through creating a survey, step-by-step in four information packed modules. And there are plenty of bonus materials and videos that will turn you into a true expert on Supporter Connection Surveys. This is a hands-on course and at the end of the course, you will have produced your own Supporter Connection Survey!


  • Sean Triner

    Sean Triner is a Co-Founder of Moceanic and Pareto Group. With over three decades of experience in fundraising and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in mathematics, Sean has a wealth of fundraising expertise to share with Moceanic members and blog readers. He is also a coach and available for bookings on the Coaching+ program for fundraisers to help answer your questions and work hands-on directly with you.

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