Updated: 2 days ago
This blog is part 5 in a series of 6 about transforming regular giving.
When we work with schools, colleges or universities, their databases come in all sizes. We have had clients with a couple of thousand and others with almost half a million. All have a small percentage of people who are carefully flagged and allocated to prospect research and a relationship manager. Unfortunately, there is a much larger percentage who expect personal treatment and who would respond positively, but due to lack of resources, they will never get this individual approach.
The frustrating thing is that these people could be great prospects who are yet to be discovered. And without that knowledge, it's so easy for people to be missed or ignored, or the wrong ones targeted, or the wrong approach taken, resulting in even more opportunities being lost. At an Oxbridge College, we once called a person in Mexico. The caller was great. Thank goodness, because the person gave £100,000! And they have given over £1.5m since. It was a great result, but really it would have been better if that person had been identified in advance as it could so easily have gone wrong. That‘s why knowledge is so important.
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One of the best ways to ensure things do go well is to ask for the right amount. If you ask for too little people feel disrespected or the Case for Support is trivialised. If you ask for too much, people are put off. Especially telethon callers or volunteer askers will do well if they know the ask level is just right. However, with ask amount setting, there are so many factors to consider that are important but could easily get missed. That would cost you money in lost donations or many hours trawling through data to set them as accurately as possible. How many times have you looked at prospects about to be called and with a sinking heart realised they are being asked for far too little, or stopped the caller in their tracks and said ‘Don't ask for that, it's way too much’?
It's so easy for this to happen without the analysis and algorithms that help you get the right amount again and again. And any system needs the business intelligence to flag the people where only a human can decide. We have learnt so much over the past 25 years about this. We know that Classicists typically give 40% more than Lawyers. We also know that teachers are great givers - if they live in parts of the country where the cost of living is low. It is this type of information that comes from years of deep data learning.
That’s why, for nearly two decades, before most people had even heard of data mining, we have used powerful algorithms that combine the knowledge of our enormous data warehouse with your prospect’s giving history and demographics, so you can produce an evidence-based ask figure. The reason we have had many campaigns exceed 60% or even 70% giving rates isn't just great asking and a great case, it is because the ask was just right.
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But great ask-setting needs great data. That is why Serafina also allows you to analyse where you have deficiencies of knowledge, then lets you build and deploy targeted surveys for key information from key people. We have run surveys for institutions of all types. Many have had completion rates over 40%. Such information can now be used to transform your success.
With Serafina success is at your fingertips.
Thoughtful data analysis also lets you know who not to ask. Serafina even looks for people where there may be particular sensitivity that you need to consider before including them. Serafina runs searches to find the people who would expect, rightly or wrongly, to not be in a mass appeal. Flagged up, you are in control and can make appropriate choices.
All this forethought combines with Serafina’s powerful evidence-based planning tools, showing you the options and giving you choices to find the perfect compromise to achieve your aims, like asking a touch higher to maximise income or a touch lower to get more gifts.
This care extends through to making the Ask. Serafina’s advanced scripting technology empowers your fundraisers to say the right things to the right people at the right time with its sophisticated matching and optimisation algorithms; your phonathons and face to face fundraising will triumph.
Such depth of analysis runs throughout your campaign, comparing prediction to result. So the next time you run a giving day, you will see immediately which comms streams are working and which are not.
Whatever the campaign, whatever the channel, such evidence and understanding puts you in control.
There is so much to consider, it’s hard to know enough about people to segment your database well, to set the right ask amounts and get the right person to ask at the right time.
In part, that’s because often you simply lack information. Before we started working with them, our first Dutch client university only had their alumni records on paper. Now they have one of the best Annual Funds in continental Europe.
But sometimes it's because the information you have is out of date and you need the tools to identify and fix that. In Oxbridge, where we have worked with more than half the colleges, databases are often full to the brim with information. We have watched these databases grow and grow over the last twenty five years. It’s not too little information, it can almost be too much. Addresses, phone numbers, job details can become out of date and then that information can do more harm than good.
Sometimes, you have lots of great information, but you are not sure what it means. We have helped clients run surveys with response rates as high as 50%. But how does one pick through all of the data that is obtained? What does it mean if someone is a certain age, works in a particular industry, gave years ago but not recently, studied a particular subject? The answers are there in the data. But not in one client’s data. Even the biggest databases simply don't have enough records to create statistical significance. We look at a campaign sometimes and find the giving rate of a particular country is 100%, then we realised only two people got asked. What can be learnt from that?
That’s why a decade ago we started pooling non-personal data points, doing the hard analysis and writing a lot of mind-bending algorithms so that all that rich insight was available for every client. We built a data warehouse with tens of millions of data points formed from campaigns across five continents, from Australia to Canada, South Africa to China, in every part of our community: research universities and institutes, technical tertiary institutions, boarding schools and day schools. It's given us an insight that is extraordinary and probably unique. And that knowledge is growing exponentially. With Serafina, you will have access to one of the most extraordinary business intelligence tools in educational philanthropy.