Marketing is essential for any nonprofit looking to reach new audiences, spread awareness about its cause, and garner more support to fuel its mission. As a nonprofit professional, you know that an effective marketing strategy requires a solid investment of your busy organization’s time and funds. When you’re using these resources to optimize your marketing efforts, how can you ensure you’re making the most of them?

The data you have about your donors is one of your most valuable assets. For example, let’s say you have a supporter named Abigail. You know that she is a young, Gen-Z adult and prefers to communicate via social media and email. Because she is a low-income full-time student with little disposable income, she has a history of volunteering regularly with your organization and similar causes.

During your nonprofit’s past campaigns, Abigail engaged most with communications promoting the opportunity she is passionate about: volunteering. To show that you truly understand Abigail’s interests and preferences, you should leverage this data and send Abigail volunteer-focused communications through her preferred channels.

So, how can you apply this to your own organization? In this guide, we’ll dive into data-driven marketing basics and tips for getting started with data analytics by answering the following questions:

Data helps nonprofits personalize donor communications to boost marketing ROI as much as possible. Plus, when you make it clear that you respect and value the support donors provide, you can cultivate a trusting, lifelong relationship with them.

Let’s dive in by defining data-driven marketing and what it might look like in practice.

What is data-driven marketing?

This marketing style is a type of nonprofit marketing, which NXUnite defines as “using marketing strategies and campaigns to raise awareness, reach existing and prospective donors, and fundraise to help an organization further its mission.”

Data-driven marketing follows these core principles. However, it also involves collecting data about your target audience and using that information to create more personalized, effective marketing campaigns.

Let’s say your nonprofit animal shelter wants to use data to guide its email campaign promoting an upcoming event. First, segment donors based on their geographic location and communication preferences (i.e., filtering out those who live far away or do not engage with emails). Next, tailor the subject line and copy to these supporters. If you know they are mostly young parents, focus on the fun, family-friendly activities at the event. If they recently inquired about adopting, shift the focus to the opportunity to adopt with waived or reduced fees.

Most importantly, remember that using data-driven marketing is a process involving continued, ongoing learning. The more campaigns you run, the more you’ll learn about your donors, what they like, and what doesn’t resonate with them. Add these findings to your database to hone your approach.

What are the benefits of using data in your marketing strategy?

The main benefit of data-driven marketing is similar to any other communication style: your organization will reach more people who want to donate in order to support your cause. But using data to support your efforts allows you to place supporters at the center of your marketing campaign to make a deeper impact without any guesswork.

Here are a few of the specific ways data-driven marketing benefits nonprofits:

  • Increased engagement and retention. When your organization understands donors’ behavior–and, more importantly, what drives that behavior–you can interact with them on a personal level. This cultivates deep, loyal relationships that will boost retention by keeping your donors returning to support you again and again.
  • More informed decision-making. With access to useful donor data and campaign performance analytics, you’ll be able to more accurately predict which strategies will be successful and pinpoint ways to stretch resources further. Experience with data analytics can also benefit other areas of your organization’s operations, like deciding how to allocate your budget or choosing what fundraising events to plan.
  • Enhanced fundraising results. Say you know a donor’s discretionary income, the causes they’ve supported in the past, and their average gift size. Leveraging these three points, you can customize your fundraising ask to their unique giving affinity and capacity. By personalizing this ask, you can raise more without leaving funding on the table or offending donors with an outlandish solicitation.

Pairing data-driven marketing with a multichannel approach is a great way to both appeal to donors personally and keep your organization at the forefront of their minds. When you know which channels they prefer, when they use them, and how they interact with them, you can build cohesive campaigns that engage supporters across channels.

How can nonprofits implement data-driven marketing?

By this point, you might be nervously picturing your extensive file of donors and their personal information, wondering how you’ll ever tackle analyzing so much data. Even for small nonprofits, getting started can feel daunting if you’re working alone.

Here are a few tips and resources to make the data analysis process easier:

  • Invest in data analytics software. Avoid making your job harder than it needs to be by using modern, easy-to-use data analytics software. In particular, look for a solution that allows you to screen data more often than the typical three to five year period. Choose software that allows you to analyze donors’ preferences, giving motivations, and personal details with just a few clicks, any time you want.
  • Maintain data hygiene. Data hygiene refers to the practice of cleaning datasets to ensure data is relevant, accurate, and current. To prevent mistakes from occurring in the first place, set up a standard operating procedure for data entry. You’ll need to regularly screen data for errors and outdated information as well. For example, a donor might move, meaning you need to update their mailing address.
  • Research peer organizations. Observe what your peer organizations do to understand which strategies resonate with your donors. If another organization’s recent fundraiser was a big success, what marketing strategies did they use? Which channels did they communicate through? Did they use emotional storytelling, or keep the campaign simple? Discern how you can apply the most effective elements of their strategy to your own campaigns.
  • Foster a data-driven culture. When switching to this new strategy, make sure your staff understands both the importance of data analytics and how to incorporate data into decision-making. Consider hosting training sessions with staff and conducting regular, low-stakes decision-making exercises so they can practice.

For more support, work with a marketing agency that will help you manage your campaigns and leverage data for maximum impact. Pursuant’s guide to direct mail marketing recommends coupling your organization’s deep understanding of its cause and donors with the marketing expertise of a professional. Make sure to select an agency with experience in data analytics that can demonstrate examples of compelling campaigns grounded in concrete data.

No matter what marketing approach you use, your nonprofit should apply concrete data to each step of the campaign. Using data about your supporters will help your organization make the most of every marketing resource to drive the largest impact. To step up your approach even more and gain expert, experienced input, consider teaming up with a data-driven marketing agency.