8 Tips for Good Fundraising Analytics & Reports
Chris Paver – 2 August 2022
During our journeys in the charitable sector we’ve encountered all manner of different approaches to fundraising reporting and analytics, many of which left a lot to be desired. In fact, when we interviewed more than 20 fundraisers from charities around the globe not a single one said they were completely satisfied with their reporting and analytics. Why is that?
We uncovered a range of common mistakes that seemed to be causing the greatest frustrations for fundraisers and the data teams they worked with. So we’ve broken those issues down into an easy list of eight top tips. Think of this list as Dataro’s philosophy for good fundraising reporting.
If you want better reports, see if any of these issues are tripping you up:
- Tip #1: Don’t manually move your data between systems
We couldn’t say how many times this issue reared its ugly head as the root cause of reporting problems for charities. It happens a lot. Data being manually shared from one system to another, typically via Excel, degrades trust and leads to lots of manual errors.
- Tip #2: Integrate with the single source of truth
There really should be one source of truth for each organisation’s data, typically (although not always) it would be your CRM. Maintaining multiple sources of truth again erodes trust in your reports as different teams get different results. A common example is completely separate systems for financial reporting vs fundraising reporting.
- Tip #3: Build in automatic data updates
You should be able to automate updates and synchronise your data at least every day. A lot of fundraisers we spoke with wanted to check on appeal results daily, rather than waiting a whole month to see how their campaign was performing. For many programs, automatic updates also allow you to pivot if your campaign isn’t heading the way you want it to go.
- Tip #4: Never leave your reports to decay
Nothing is more confusing than an out of date report, which of course erodes trust in your reporting process. Many times we’ve seen organisations learn the wrong lesson or get the wrong insight because their report was out of date, even if only by a month. In today’s dynamic fundraising environment, where things can change quickly, you should have the latest data at your fingertips so you can make the right decisions.
- Tip #5: Create reports with a specific purpose
This may seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake even for seasoned professionals. Broadly, all reports have one of two purposes. The first is tracking, which helps us see how things are progressing each day or week and raise red flags if results aren’t as expected. The second purpose is strategy, to understand something new about our fundraising to help change our approach, whether that’s launching a new campaign type or adjusting an existing approach.
- Tip # 6: Tailor reports to a specific fundraising role or function
This is something we noticed most charities weren’t doing, but which we think is essential for fundraisers aiming for a data-led approach. In our investigations we came across examples of charities with over 150 reports where fundraisers had dashboard fatigue – no-one can process that much information! Reports should be particular to the individual and answer specific questions relevant to their role, to help them be as effective as they can be. For example, regular giving teams should be looking at regular giving reports!
- Tip # 7: Design reports with flexibility to deep dive
People use reports to answer questions about their fundraising. And one of the most common outcomes is that the report prompts another question! Reporting should allow enough flexibility to investigate a particular question in more detail. For instance, a report about donor retention could tell you your overall donor churn rate. But the second level is to look at what is driving that churn rate. Is it different depending on the donor’s age, acquisition channel, or payment method.
- Tip # 8: Educate the end user on how to use the report effectively
A lot of fundraisers talked about looking at reports and not really understanding the data or what it meant. They hadn’t been trained in how to use the report. Each report should have a clear reason for using it and clear documentation for the users, so they know what questions they can answer with the data presented. This saves a lot of back and forth and a lot of time and frustration both for the fundraiser and for their data teams.
Dataro believes that reporting should be live, easy to use, trustworthy and specific to the user. If you’re struggling with your own reporting, we’d suggest taking a look at your approach to see if one of these issues might be the root cause.
To solve these issues, we’ve also released a best-in-class reporting tool called Fundraising Intelligence, built specifically for fundraising. It’s the new tool for charities that want easy reporting that answers their key questions without the hassle of a complicated setup. We’ve even released a free version for RE NXT users to help more organisations get started.
Want better reporting? The answer starts with Fundraising Intelligence – try the demo here.