6 Tips for Collecting and Using Data in Arts Charities

By Amanda Rigali on

Katy Price Profiletdtf

Katy Price was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Black Country Living Museum until September 2016, and has remained with the organisation as Development Manager (Projects).

Collecting and using data is extremely important for organisations in any sector, and fundraising is no different. Fundraisers require data about prospects and donors to understand their motivations and ability to give, internal data can then be used to strengthen the case for support, and is crucial information when tackling the hot-topic of transparency. But are we making the most of the data available to us to inform our decision making? Surprisingly a study from Just Giving found that only 24% of charities asked were actively collecting data and using it to influence their strategy.


From “What’s Data Got To Do With It”, p.5, Just Giving

As I write this blog post, Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) are making the ambitious leap to Tessitura after many months of careful planning and hard work. Whilst many arts organisations use this system already, BCLM will be the first Museum in the UK to do so. Across the organisation departments have been transferring information from five separate databases into one integrated system to improve customer experience, internet booking and relations with visitors, donors, members and other stakeholders. As a new addition to the organisation in this time of transition, there hasn’t been much opportunity to use this information to inform my strategy for projects such as the corporate membership scheme, the planned wealth screening and the relaunch of the membership scheme. Data will soon be readily available and an integral part of my decision making, so my second blog is the ideal opportunity to explore the subject.

1. How do we begin to collect data, and what should we be asking?

Organisations collect data in many different ways; website, direct mail, social media, ticket sales, retail purchases, thermal sensor counters, surveys, record books and wifi login etc. Contemplate what useful information you will need to inform your strategic fundraising. When created a survey or sign-up form, bear in mind that too many questions will put people off responding. Studies show that online conversion rates improved by 120% when the question fields were reduced form 11 to four. Try to find identify: Who are your supporters?  How can you reach them? What actions do they take? 

Further on you may want to investigate more specific data, use Getting Started With Data-Driven Decision Making, a workbook from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) to decide the questions which will have the biggest impact.

2. Be clear with your messaging

When using direct mail or email for fundraising purposes, your statement of consent must be clear as confusing messaging can make your organisation appear untrustworthy. The Good, The Bad and the Missed Consent  discusses the impact of unclear wording on the number of positive consents. There must always be a clear opt-out option with font no smaller than size 10, as suggested by the Institute of Fundraising here.

3. Understand data protection

As data protection is currently such a hot topic for the third-sector, ensuring you are handling information correctly is imperative. If you’re unsure of the most recent legislation, make sure you stay up to date with the Code of Fundraising Practice and consult the Information Commissioner’s Office for the Guide to Data Protection.

4. Know your data retention policy

The Data Protection Act states that personal data must not be kept longer than is necessary, and data must not be kept unless it is still required for that purpose. However, the Act does not specify the minimum or maximum time periods. So ask yourself these questions: Does your organisation have a data retention policy? What happens to someone’s data if they unsubscribe or become inactive? How is this managed to ensure that your company demonstrates best practice?

5. You’ve collected your data, so what next?

The wonderful world of CRM. If your organisation has suitable software then use it to get the best out of your accumulated data to create reports, analyse donor trends and link data from multiple sources. If you’re not sure how, then take up the opportunity to seek training, or use online resources to help you.

If your organisation’s budget can’t stretch to a CRM system then never fear, in 2015 Tableau launched their free data analytics software for non-profit organisations that have an annual operating budget of less than £3 million. There is a small administrative fee of £40 for each of up to five licensed products, for a 2 year licence.

We’re not just collecting data to profile our supporters (although it certainly helps!) We can use both qualitative and quantitive impact data to build stronger campaigns through informed storytelling. Here’s another handy workbook from NTEN to help translate that data into a powerful argument.

6. Keep it clean

Investing in maintaining a regular data cleansing routine is crucial for saving your organisation time and money long term, for example Children with Cancer saved £48,000 from data cleansing which may otherwise have been wasted on incorrectly-addressed mail. Being efficient, reliable and spending your budget wisely is also an important factor for your organisations PR. Dealing with the menace of dirty data shares some useful tips to keep your data ship shape.

Data can be overwhelming, but don’t let this hold you back. For more information book a place on Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy’s informative session on Using and Managing Data in Fundraising with The Audience Agency’s Leo Sharrock, and check out Whats data got to do with it? created by Just Giving (in partnership with Social Misfits Media and Institute of Fundraising) to get an overview of using data effectively in your organisation.

If you have some handy tips on using and managing data, then please add them to the comments below.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

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