Analytics: The Data You Need to Strengthen Your Advancement Program

Analytics: The Data You Need to Strengthen Your Advancement Program 

How many decisions that affect an institution’s advancement strategy come from intuition or habit, rather than data-driven quantitative analysis? Analytics tools help fundraising leaders build a narrative around their numbers, with reporting that evaluates prospect pools, resource allocation, performance against benchmark institutions, and more. Such insights provide a valuable, holistic perspective for strengthening donor engagement, constituent outreach, and strategic decision-making. 

For career fundraisers, relying on experience sometimes means discounting what the numbers tell us about the state of an institution’s donor landscape. For new leaders, it can be equally challenging to pinpoint the data needed to navigate that landscape.  

As you consider the ways analytics tools might help your institution enhance its fundraising and drive growth, this will guide you in understanding the resources available to you. 

Recognize the Value of Analytics 

I have heard advancement leadership teams express skepticism over whether analytics will really be able to help improve their outcomes, particularly when they’re unsure about the quality of their internal data.

In actuality, certain types of analytics can enhance an institution’s prospect pool with publicly available data and provide critical insights – even in situations where an individual CRM system may have spotty or incomplete gift data. 

There are many possible scenarios where analytics can help solve complex situations nonprofit leaders frequently face:

  • You’re preparing for a campaign but are unsure of your organization’s readiness, or the willingness and ability of your big donors to dig deep when asked. It’s common for a team in this situation to question whether the portfolio assignments, wealth ratings, and even gift data in their CRM system is trustworthy enough to proceed.  
  • You have a capital initiative and need to identify prospects. A recent client wanted to raise millions for an athletic facility geared towards a niche, non-revenue-generating sport and was unsure whether the donor interest and capacity was there to accomplish this.  
  • You need to understand what your peers are doing. It’s not unusual for institutional leaders to task the advancement team with building a deep understanding of peer institutions’ fundraising. Moreover, many clients I work with are asked by their boards or bosses: “Why aren’t we raising those kinds of numbers?”
  • You’ve experienced a major transition in your advancement leadership team (or maybe you are the new leader) and quickly understanding your current and potential pool of supporters is critical. Just opening recent reports and clicking around is not enough to evaluate the state of the program and develop a course of action for the future. A prospect pool analysis may help, but leaders must be able to harness these insights and turn them into an actionable strategy. 

Understand the Types of Analytics Available 

As you are trying to solve these kinds of thorny challenges, it’s important to know the analytics options available to you.   

  • Prospect Pool Evaluation  

A prospect pool evaluation can complement a campaign readiness study or a program review. This deep dive into your universe of current, lapsed, and potential donors layers your own data with dozens of publicly available data sources to accurately assess both capacity and likelihood. Seeing a matrix of your constituents that groups them based on likelihood to make a major gift in the short term is often the “Aha!” moment that allows teams to retool their strategy. 

  • Major Gift Portfolio Analysis 

A major gift portfolio analysis can be particularly helpful as programs evaluate staffing, resources, and growth. This category of analytics breaks down a major gift program by both unit and solicitor, providing insight into the effectiveness of subsets within an organization. Looking at unit and solicitor metrics layered with the gift capacity and likelihood data reveals which units may need additional staff to cover an abundance of potential prospects. As organizations think ahead to upcoming campaigns or leadership changes, realigning resources and personnel in response to a major gift portfolio analysis can produce a more effective, efficient fundraising program. 

  • Donor Surveys  

Consider donor surveys that extend beyond simple checkbox forms and act as a true analytic tool – evaluating how different bands of donors, high-wealth prospects, and important constituent types feel about your institution. Surveys are such a valuable element in planning a campaign or assessing the health of a program. They reveal insights with aggregate data and serve as an important cultivation tool at the individual donor level, equipping major gift teams with the information they need to pursue a big gift. 

Know When You Need Support 

As you evaluate the state of your available data and decide what analytics you need in order to move your program forward, you may feel unsure of your advancement team’s ability to build effective analytics internally, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps data quality is an issue; or perhaps, like many institutions in 2023, finding and retaining in-house talent to produce these analytics is a challenge. For many smaller programs, hiring these roles may be an unattainable luxury, but they still recognize how valuable accurate reporting is in achieving their goals. 

One of our recent clients started out with questions about where their gift officers’ time could be best utilized. Their hunch was that time was being wasted on prospects who did not truly have the capacity for a major gift, while other prospects with more potential were remaining unidentified and ignored.  

Certain types of analytics can enhance an institution’s prospect pool with publicly available data and provide critical insights – even in situations where an individual CRM system may have spotty or incomplete gift data.

Our analytics team provided a full prospect pool evaluation, marrying the school’s own CRM data and engagement indicators to a host of external data sources that provided new insights into the true capability and likelihood of their prospects to make a major gift. This analysis found that almost half of the prospects currently assigned to their officers’ portfolios either did not show signs of capacity to make a major gift, or had little to no indicators of likelihood to give in the short term.  

At the same time, after analyzing the data in the large pool of unassigned records, we found a group of high-capacity, high-likelihood prospects who had never been assigned to portfolios but were ideal candidates for personal stewardship. The insights that emerged from this analysis led to an immediate review and rebalancing of portfolios, and an evaluation of whether this client’s major gift team would be adequately staffed to cultivate the number of high-quality targets they discovered. This awareness has put them on the path to sustained growth and opened up exciting new conversations with supporters who are eager to be a part of their mission.  

Understanding what you don’t have when it comes to data is as important as working with the data you do have. Analytics can bridge this gap and provide your institution with a path forward – along with the confidence to forge ahead.  

If you would like guidance in choosing the right analytics tools for your institution’s needs, please contact Dana Gresko at dgresko@grenzglier.com 

You can also download your copy of our GG+A playbook, Data That Drives Growth. This curated collection of thought leadership from GG+A experts will provide you with even more insights for the key challenges facing today’s industry leaders – from effective data management, to systems change agility, and more.  


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About the author

Dana Gresko

Vice President

Dana Gresko is a Vice President of Analytics at GG+A, where she partners with clients to analyze and apply their prospect screening and client relationship management (CRM) data to enhance philanthropic performance and outcomes. She also collaborates on benchmarking and growth modelling studies to provide strategic data on opportunities for institutional…